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.
The Silence Project is a unique novel which is scarily believable – you could easily think this was a true account as it seamlessly blends real-life world events with fiction.
Emilia’s mother, Rachel, moved out of the family pub into the garden on Emilia’s thirteenth birthday, and never speaks again. She founded an organisation (some may say cult): the ‘community’, and after eight years of demonstrations, protests, and most importantly silence, Rachel (along with thousands of other members all over the world) killed herself.
The Silence Project is told from Emilia’s perspective as she writes a ‘tell-all’ book about her experiences growing up with her mother until her death and after – in fact, the book IS Emilia’s ‘tell-all’ book so as the reader, we’re reading the autobiography Emilia is writing.
I found it absorbing and addictive reading as we follow her life and struggles dealing with her mother’s legacy. I felt conflicting emotions reading it – I really felt for Emilia but, though I understood her mother was trying to make a statement and create change in the world, the way she went about it felt so cruel to her family. The story takes you on a real rollercoaster of emotions as we follow Emilia’s own reactions to her mother’s behaviour – and the reaction from the rest of the world. You can really imagine people reacting in the ways they did, and the community’s actions sometimes echo real-life events.
However, I felt it tailed off a bit after Rachel’s death. Emilia’s work with Community afterwards felt a bit long and dragged a bit for me, meaning I lost a bit of interest in it as we entered the last third of the book. It was still a really great read, but I think the real addictive, gripping element of the storyline cooled off a bit as Rachel died, unfortunately. Still, I would really recommend this book to anyone fancying a thought-provoking original and authentic-feeling read.