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*** - The Silence Project




Monster. Martyr. Mother.

On Emilia Morris's thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.

In the aftermath of what comes to be known as the Event, the Community's global influence quickly grows. As a result, the whole world has an opinion about Rachel - whether they see her as a callous monster or a heroic martyr - but Emilia has never voiced hers publicly. Until now.

When she publishes her own account of her mother's life in a memoir called The Silence Project, Emilia also decides to reveal just how sinister the Community has become. In the process, she steps out of Rachel's shadow once and for all, so that her own voice may finally be heard.



I was excited to start The Silence Project as dystopian thrillers are some of my favourite genres of books. The plot follows the story of Emilia Morris: whose mother started a community of silence at the bottom of her garden when she was 13. When her mother and her followers burn themselves to death to try and inspire the world to listen, a worldwide phenomenon was born. But is this organisation following in the footsteps her mother created or is there a darker force at play?

Disappointingly I found The Silence Project to be quite hard to get into and I struggled to stay engaged. Part of this is down to the writing style - the book deals in alternative history and it is written in the style of part memoir, part academic document. This means there are footnotes and references peppering the book which just amount to lists of books that aren’t real and websites that don’t exist. When I first saw one of the websites, I excitedly typed in the url to my phone to see if they had perhaps created an online Easter egg and was a little disappointed that it led nowhere. Later in the book I saw some addresses were from sites such as BBC News in an attempt to make it all seem real, but this just had the opposite effect on me and broke up the story too much with no payoff.

The story is split into two halves, with the first half of the book dealing with Emilia’s childhood and the beginnings of the Community. The problem is we never really get into Rachel Morris’ head - we never properly understand why she decided to stop talking and what she was trying to achieve. This ambiguity helps in the later section when the aims of the Community have grown and shifted but it made it hard to empathise with the characters. Rachel’s character comes across as harsh and selfish – not wanting to help her family provide an income or be there for her daughter on important milestones. However, because of this confusion of what Rachel was doing, Emilia also comes across as a bit of a spoiled brat and I didn’t really empathise with her. I felt this section, although providing important backstory dragged a little and we got a lot of superfluous detail that we didn’t really need.

The second half was where I started to pay more attention as the sinister aims of The Community started after Rachel’s death. I never understood why Emilia said she hated The Community and yet decided to join it, even moving to the Democratic Republic of Congo to work for them. Even when a lot of the information is revealed and the darker side is made very clear, she still stays for so many years without any realistic motivation. Her story in the DRC is interesting, but it’s only really interesting if it were a real story, whereas as it is a fantasy there was a lot of information that could have been edited out.

Overall, The Silence Project is an interesting concept but it wasn’t fleshed out in the right places for me and I found it hard to engage with the writing style and the characters. Thank you to NetGalley & Atlantic Books – Corvus for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.


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