Read Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrøm Anne Bruce Online

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From the acclaimed Nordic Council Literature Prize winner, a story that reveals the devastating effects of mistaking silence for peace and feeling shame for inevitable circumstances. Eva and Simon have spent most of their adult lives together. He is a physician and she is a teacher, and they have three grown daughters and a comfortable home. Yet what binds them together iFrom the acclaimed Nordic Council Literature Prize winner, a story that reveals the devastating effects of mistaking silence for peace and feeling shame for inevitable circumstances. Eva and Simon have spent most of their adult lives together. He is a physician and she is a teacher, and they have three grown daughters and a comfortable home. Yet what binds them together isn't only affection and solidarity but also the painful facts of their respective histories, which they keep hidden even from their own children. But after the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper and Simon's increasing withdrawal into himself, the past can no longer be repressed. Lindstrom has crafted a masterpiece about the grave mistakes we make when we misjudge the legacy of war, common prejudices, and our own strategies of survival....

Title : Days in the History of Silence
Author :
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ISBN : 9781306914437
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 154 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Days in the History of Silence Reviews

  • Jill
    2019-03-05 06:39

    Right from the opening pages, it is evident that this is a riveting novel, one that will grab you by the lapels and keep you enthralled throughout its pages.Eva, the narrator, relates a menacing tale about her encounter with an intruder while her daughters were still young (“I was the one who let him in.”) In retrospect, she says, “Later, I called it the episode. When I talked about it with other people…The episode is the anticipation of something more. But there was nothing more, he rang the doorbell that day, and after that he disappeared.”The opening sets the stage for the episodic quality of this novel. Drama is always lurking beneath the surface – and sometimes rises to the surface with the clear sense that something bad is about to happen, but this isn’t a novel about action; it’s a novel about inaction.Eva and her husband are an elderly Norwegian…and now he’s mute, a metaphor of the history of silence the two of them have shared. She muses, “Underneath everything, the house, the children, all the years of movement and unrest, there has been, this silence. That it has simply risen to the surface, pushed by external changes.”Over and over, themes and motifs rise and fall again: both individual and societal retreats into unconscionable silence. The abandonment of those who deserve love and caring (whether it’s a child, a dog, or an entire people). The need to seek comfort and refuge and the failure of faith. Perhaps most of all, the search for an authentic self-narrative.I thought this book was absolutely brilliant, beautifully atmospheric and crafted, insightfully focused on the repercussions of secret-keeping and missed connections, with a remote yet descriptive style that perfectly captures every scene. It is magnificently translated by Anne Bruce and a “must read” for those who love introspective literary fiction.

  • Francisco
    2019-03-16 07:35

    At one point in the story the narrator ( a woman in her early sixties) finds an empty snail shell in her closet. She suspects her husband to have placed it there, but to tell her what? What is the message of the shell? Her husband has withdrawn into silence (caused by dementia or depression or a willful silence, we don't quite know.) Each of them, husband and wife, has things in their life they decided to be silent about, with themselves, with each other, with their children, with others. Painful truths or just truths that seemed inconvenient to be open about. Truths that could have been accepted and shared and thus transform pain and guilt into community. The beauty and the quiet terror of this book is that you feel in your bones that it is possible in this life to wait and wait to reach out, to speak what you most want to say, to wait one more day to make the connections that make life worth living, and then it is too late. It is possible to let yourself go spiritually mute, to let yourself fall into living a life that has no living flesh inside, no life, an empty shell. One of those books of simple truth, written with delicate beauty, that may, if you let it, scare you awake . . . before it is too late.

  • Antonomasia
    2019-03-09 08:29

    [4.5] A short domestic novel from Norway, with a stillness and force reminiscent of Bergman and Dreyer. I'm not sure how it does it; this review might need YMMV every other sentence. It doesn't sound different from a lot of other literary fiction, yet it had unusual effects. Why, simply by mentioning similar items, and not in great detail, did it call up memories of objects from my own earlier life with a vividness I never thought I'd experience again? The seat coverings in a family car from the late 80s, sight, texture and smell; the rough, potentially grazing surface of church stonework; the Christmas-pudding scent of a newly opened packet of cigarettes and the little flakes of tobacco visible inside each one;I wanted to grab them all as they went past, but too many so I had to settle for enjoying the ride. Why did this book so often hoover all my attention in when it has the potential to be reduced to litfic cliches? It was doing so from the first, before I realised everything it was about. What alchemy is there in the translation that made it so special without it being apparent how?It was recommended by someone whose taste I greatly respect, who is not on GR, but I did not expect to be emotionally ambushed like this by an ostensibly quiet, grey book. The mysterious attention-hoovering quality was there from the first, but it was the resonance of the narrator's experience and the way she related it that knocked me sideways with some kind of sonic boom. This is another book I'm looking over just now (late Sept 2015) that's been sitting with a part-done review for weeks or months, because I had too many quotes or too many things to say, for which I could not find the right words. (A lot of words and noise here, for a book about silence.)Eva, the narrator, and her husband Simon are a retired middle-class Norwegian couple. He goes silent on her: this might be something to do with ageing, some sort of manifestation of incipient dementia - but it certainly has something psychological, if not everything, to do with a mysterious incident connected to their old cleaner who left, and to unspoken family secrets. Their adult children are upset and puzzled that the cleaner was fired because they thought she was great. See, it just sounds like yet another middle-class novel, doesn't it? But middle class novels are as they are because they connect with quite a lot of readers who grew up in a middle class household. And three chords were struck. One, the particularity of this secret: (view spoiler)[Simon is Jewish and the children have never been told this or of his experiences as a boy hiding during the war. Part of my family has been somewhat obfuscatory about their history; Jewishness would be a plausible explanation. (hide spoiler)]. Second, missing someone who was paid for looking-after: albeit here the cleaner was fired by Eva and Simon and she had helped them - it's not that parents got rid of someone looking after kids that the kids liked. And if only their adult children had known why, they'd have thought it a good reason.Third: the way the unspoken of one generation manifests in problems of the next:  The girls have always done what they themselves wanted. Apart from Helena, perhaps. I see us in her. Everything we have been afraid of, our cowardice, it has become visible in her. The evasion, the silence. Later: I study Helena, there is something I have always regarded as glassy, brittle, about her. She was always afraid when she was little, afraid of the water, of the attic, of the dark.Perhaps it comes from the fear she has inherited without actually knowing what she is scared of, could not know.At one time I must have thought it would protect her. Not knowing, that it would make her, make them, safer. But when I look at her now, it strikes me that it has had the opposite effect. Maybe it works that way, that what you guess at terrifies you more than what you are told. The blurred, nameless apparition. It's something I find myself periodically wanting to explain in some discussion or other, but it's difficult to do rigorously without attaching pages of psychology textbook about implicit memory, and how learning happens from hundreds and thousands of tiny repeated utterances and actions, and checking what the newest stuff says about mirror neurons in humans; at least in quite a lot of fiction the occurrence is already accepted without having to go into microscopic detail of process.Fourth: the silence. I've had three experiences of falling for people profoundly, making a connection which seemed as if it was too rare to break...and each at some point fell into a prolonged and furious sulk or a deep depression - something of which each already had a major history - and became silent, or effectively so, whilst still in a way present, either bodily or via very terse communications. The most difficult instance I've described before as like having a Dementor in the flat, because it was impossible not to spiral down myself. Eva's experience doesn't have such melodrama to it - it begins gradually: His silence came gradually over the course of a few months, half a year. He might say thanks for the meal or bye. He has become as formal as a hotel guest, seemingly as frosty as a random passenger you bump into on a bus. This would have been an unbelievably helpful book to have had at those times, because she expresses: I need to tell this to someone, how it feels, how it is so difficult to live with someone who has suddenly become silent. It is not simply the feeling that he is no longer there. It is the feeling that you are not either. And she still ticks over day to day, functional and whole and getting on with her own stuff - which has to make it easier for the near-silent person. One can know intellectually that it isn't a good idea to take such a thing personally, whilst emotionally still experiencing it that way despite oneself. I like quite a lot of space myself, can understand a sense of being crowded or being subjected to unwanted expectation (some other people had conversely made me feel crowded and I was always trying to get more space from them), but the distressing tangle of empathising and simultaneously being the bearer of those expectations was enormously difficult. It's not a scenario there are guides to coping with, in the way there might be for, say, 'your partner is drinking excessively', so it was particularly confounding: I usually find the way out of such confusion is an example of how to be, the sort you can really only get from detailed writing, or from knowing someone as a friend. Eva's calm [coldness in some of her family relationships] brings no shame to the situation, and not being mired in shame was a lot of what I needed: in this sort of psychological dynamic you need to stop blaming yourself in order to be less culpable, a bit of headfuck of an idea in itself: you need to think about something else, like with flying in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Then there is the always-useful reminder re. any relationship: He can’t be anybody’s. He isn’t a thing. This book was what I was looking for, if I'd thought to look at all. Unfortunately it wasn't available back then. Eva is a nicely complicated character, with aspects I liked and disliked. She is the one who didn't want to talk about things to the children, a type of character I'm usually angry with, but there was too much shared experience for me to be that cross. She can be puritanical and functional: I have always felt a certain unease at the sight of the interior decoration of churches. The coolness of the walls, the stained-glass windows; everything on the one hand invites respect and yet nonetheless has a somewhat vainglorious quality, intended to provoke admiration. Holiness aspiring to be made manifest through aesthetics. But not entirely puritanical: And now that he is old, that we are both older, I think of him as a young man. Occasionally I have felt a passionate desire for him as he was at that time. It makes me happy, like that feeling in my dreams. Oh but yes, that is erotic. I think I have never been close to anyone in that way, been so happy with anyone as I was with him.This might be a book that twenty-year-olds wouldn't quite get. Though is that presumptuous? Would a reader of sixty find it unbelievable that the following resonated with someone who's not yet forty? And when I waken, my life, or that part of it, my youth, is like a dream I dreamed just a few minutes before I woke. It was over so fast. Or that they smiled at We tried so hard to be young., remembering that just-left-home not-quite-knowing-yourself, and as substitute, imitating images of what it was to be young?It is nice to read someone who quite likes aspects of ageing, that there is more to it than the invisibility that launched a thousand newspaper columns:I have become one of those women who view the world from bus seats, out through windows. From park benches and waiting rooms. I disturb no one and am not disturbed. I can go wherever I want without being obtrusive... my body...does not express anything other than what I am, that I no longer need to relate to a beauty I cannot stand for, a type of femininity I have never felt entirely comfortable with. (Not sure I've any business really relating to this, when all I brought to it at time of reading was the way a few lines on the face mean I look more like the people I wanted to look like twenty years ago than I ever could then when all manga-eyed, and frankly that was luck.)I understand that some Nordic cultures are more laconic than Brits (I think it's Finns who ar stereotyped as the quietest): perhaps that's another dimension lurking in this book: Like the story about two trolls, or is it three, the one says something, then a hundred years pass, and the other one replies.I was very tired whilst reading the last third - possibly this caused a slight disconnection and I might have given five stars if I'd been more awake for the home stretch. I can understand those who find this book ordinary, and why it doesn't have the highest of average ratings ... but I get it, and the committee of the 2012 Nordic Council Literature Prize evidently did.

  • Sasha
    2019-03-25 10:19

    *I got an ARC from the publisher*This book is about dementia, secrets, the Holocaust, family, the push and pull of marriage, and silence. This silence has texture and many layers of emotion - resentment, disappointment, shock, contentment, satisfaction, and sometimes, it's just a lack of words or emotions. Eva and Simon have been married for decades and they have three grown daughters. Simon is older than her, and he has been silent for a very long time. Partially it's dementia, but mostly it's because he was forced to be silent about his past for too long. He has let others speak before him. His loss, pain and disappointment have silenced him. Eva, partially responsible for the silence, is herself shutting into herself and leading a parallel life to her husband.This book is also one of those books where nothing really happens. The two quiet old people live dreamlike days, and the only action comes from occasional flashbacks and the mystery surrounding the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper, Marija. This is sad, very pensive, slow-moving book, which is not a bad thing. It definitely takes the reader into the lives of those who are married to Holocaust survivors. Eva is not a supportive wife. She has forced Simon to keep quiet about his past with his daughters until it was too late to tell. She is unhappy or even indifferent over his struggle to keep in touch with his surviving relatives and search for missing family. She has her own loss to deal with, but her lack of heartache is difficult for Simon to understand. This lack of sadness on one end and overflow on the other drives the two apart and silences them against each other. Marija's dismissal is eventually explained, and I liked that it brought the two together a little, nudging Eva towards Simon. But there's no redemption for Eva. I am surprised at the author's choice to make her so unlikable. This woman is a little insane, and she didn't even have the life background to drive her this way. She is emotionless for a huge chunk of the book, so much so that you want to shake her. Simon is the same way, but his silence is somehow likable, understandable. Eva's character lacked the explanation necessary for empathy, and that's a big part of the 3-star rating. Another reason is some of the writing. I understand that often much is lost in translation, but I don't think that's what happened here. The atmosphere of the novel is consistent and in step with the themes. The problem is that the writing was often forcefully poetic and overly insightful into other characters' emotions. It was told from the point of view of Eva, so she should not have known the way others felt in so much vivid detail, when she herself seems to completely lack understanding. She does imagine what happens when she is not there with Simon, but the author doesn't pull it off in most places. Eva's voice should have been simpler, a lot less flowery. It should have been consistent with both her emotionless and emotional moments. This book is like very sad sleepwalking. Captivating journey, but little payoff with too much literary filler.

  • Andy Turton
    2019-03-05 04:18

    I'm glad that's over. What a tedious waste of time that was. If well-constructed observations of paint drying is your thing then you are in for a treat. Likewise, if you are a student of the human condition with a keen interest in self-obsessed, despicable morons then you've found your muse. The narrator, Eva, a woman so loathsome, who's abandonment of her son reveals a lack of even the most basic animal instincts, who believes that it is an acceptable paradigm to kick her old, blind dog out onto the road for someone else to run over and who's refusal to heed the request from her daughters to give her husband the palliative care that they think he needs, primarily I expect to free him from her poison, is someone who is far, far, FAR from being worth two hundred and thirty torturous pages. I would plead with anyone else to please find something more fulfilling to do with their lives. I appreciate that I am committing the 'Katie Hopkins faux-pas' by reluctantly promoting through engagement, but if I can spare just one person from making the same mistake as me of pulling this rubbish off the shelf then it would have been worthwhile.

  • Bonnie Brody
    2019-03-09 07:38

    Days In The History of Silence is a book about the spaces between people, the silences that grow with time and become insurmountable. Eva and Simon have been married for several decades and Simon is now stricken with a form of demential that has, as its primary symptom, almost total silence. Simon was a physician and Eva a school teacher before they retired. Neither of them had many friends and they kept to themselves. They have three daughters, all grown, none of whom they are very close to. Helena, the daughter that is most prominent in the story, has been trying to get Eva to put Simon in an assisted living facility. Eva has all the papers to apply for Simon's admission but she has not filled them out despite Helena's urging.Eva and Simon's lives are filled with secrets. Eva had a son who she gave up for adoption when he was six months old. The reasons for her giving her child away are not all that clear except that it appears she did not bond with him and found child rearing to be difficult. Simon's childhood was spent during the second world war and he has told no one other than Eva what happened to him during that time. He has thought many times of sharing the history of his childhood with his daughters but he has never gotten around to it. Eva often thinks about an 'episode' in her life when the children were very little and a stranger made his way into their home. She was terrified and fearful for their lives. The stranger even moved one of the children outside while Eva's back was turned. Their daughters know nothing about their lives.At one point, they had a housekeeper named Marija, with whom they were very close. She even lived with them for a period of time. Then something appalling happened and they fired her. The reasons for her firing only become clear only towards the end of the book and, again, they choose not to share this information with their daughters.This is a novel filled with metaphors and written in lovely, poetic language. I found the story compellingly tragic but it failed to move me very much. Eva and Simon are both so removed from their lives and themselves that I felt removed from them. I could appreciate the beauty of the writing but I felt distanced from it at the same time. Simon had a desire to share his past. His inability to do so when he was able made this book seem unrealized to its full potential.

  • Deb
    2019-02-25 10:29

    This book was hard to read, not because it wasn't well-written or interesting. It was hard to read because the subject matter pushed some of my buttons.Set in Norway, a woman whose husband is falling into the well of dementia struggles with whether it's time to institutionalize him.They both have secrets: he survived the Holocaust in hiding, and although she knows about it, it's an experience she cannot share, even in retrospect. Her secret is a child born out of wedlock before she met her husband (they have three daughters from their marriage). She tells him about it, but not prior to the marriage.As they age, and he fails, they hire a Latvian woman who cleans their house, and, over time becomes part of the family. The relationship is abruptly terminated, and we don't find out why until late in the book, but it is alluded to frequently.The story is poignant, and sad. It made me think a lot about the secrets that we keep, from those we love, and from ourselves.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-03-24 04:25

    The scope of this story is small but the emotional effect is somehow huge. A woman struggles to care for her husband, whose dementia takes the form of him falling toward silence; in a lifetime of loving-but-flawed decisions they have made together, they have neglected to say what was most important, and now it's too late. I felt in such good hands as a reader--Lindstrøm is a master storyteller who takes this small story and turns it into something larger.

  • Neda
    2019-03-13 07:23

    Jeg vet ikke, denne fortellingen er sterk, stille og eksplosiv på én og samme gang, men jeg fant ikke ut av den, den traff meg ikke slik jeg håpet. Kanskje jeg må lese den igjen en annen tid.

  • Leslie
    2019-02-24 04:32

    I have finished the book, and I still have no idea what the point was. Other than maybe to encourage communication. It just never really went anywhere.

  • Carol -Reading Writing and Riesling
    2019-03-06 06:22

    2 1/2 stars A quiet and disturbing story of secrets, of words not spoken, and pasts not mentioned; a story about an adoption, the Holocaust, Survivors Guilt and dementia. A very unusual mix of subjects discussed in a quiet and unassuming manner. I am not quite sure how I feel about this book...it certainly was an interesting read, delving into the pasts of an aging couple, unlocking their secrets, I felt a bit like a voyeur privy to their intimate secrets. I did not understand why they kept such secrets from their adult children... it would have made their relationships so much easier to have spoken of the past, though I do admit that some subjects are more difficult than others to discuss openly and maybe that is the point of this book; to make us aware that these things do need to be spoken about. Maybe this is a story about forgiveness...if we can’t forgive ourselves for our past actions then we cannot share our selves fully with those we love. Shame and guilt are destructive. Maybe this is also a story about ethnicity ...how some reactions/prejudices have not changed with time. That is a very sad point to acknowledge. I felt the book finished abruptly. Maybe I just wanted more? My feelings about this book are ambiguous.

  • Judy
    2019-03-26 07:41

    Eva, a retired teacher, and Simon, a former doctor, are an older couple living in Norway with three grown daughters. Simon no longer speaks. It is unclear whether this is a choice or whether it is a symptom of dementia. Her daughters are encouraging Eva to place Simon in a home, leaving the application forms for her to complete on the hall table, where Eva is successfully ignoring them.As Eva craves the words of her husband, she remembers their life together and her memories shed some light on the situation they are now in. There have been many silences in the past. Before she knew Simon, Eva gave birth to a baby boy who she gave away after some months. Eva did not tell Simon about this for some time after their marriage. Simon spent the years of the Nazi occupation hidden in a room with his parents and brother where silence was essential. Marija was their housekeeper for some years. She became their friend, possibly their only friend, but was dismissed suddenly. They miss her very much. The reason for her dismissal comes to light only very slowly.This is a tragic story told with grace and elegance. It is a story based in silence but it’s subtlety keeps it from becoming as gloomy as it might be in the hands of a different author.

  • Isidora
    2019-03-22 03:25

    Allt är till synes harmoniskt i deras liv. Eva är förre detta lärare, Simon är pensionerad läkare, de har tre vuxna döttrar tillsammans och bor i ett fint hus. Så slutar Simon att tala (är det demens eller straffar han Eva, får man som läsare avgöra själv) och lämnar sin fru ensam med det förflutna. Och i det finns ett mörker som makarna har velat hålla stängt ute. De vill inte släppa in någon i deras liv och skaffa nära vänner. Döttrarna ska inte veta något om deras föräldrars tunga hemligheter.Vändningen kommer när det åldrande paret får hemhjälp, den lettiska kvinnan Marija, och blir vänner med henne. För att inte lämna ut för mycket, kan jag bara säga att vänskapet tar ett abrupt slut och paret går tillbaka till tystnaden. Det är tungt att läsa om Eva och Simon. Att de valt tystnaden framför andra möjligheter, levt ett instängt liv i stället för att blomma ut bland människor, gått på sparlåga och till slut förlorat varandra, gör att jag blir ledsen och sluten jag med. Merethe Lindstrøm skriver vackert och driver berättelsen fram på ett mästerligt sätt (tänk ett lugnt vatten en fridfull morgon). Hon gör det så bra, skriver om det nordiska vemodet. Men jag är så ledsen, så ledsen nu. Jag vill ha fyrverkeri i min nästa bok.

  • Larry
    2019-03-05 09:16

    What's more moody-gloomy than a novel detailing the everyday life of an elderly couple (in remote Scandinavia, no less!) But I couldn't put down this book from its compelling opening that hints at a secret that looms in the silence. Gives silence bones in ways that leave me in awe of Lindstrom's subtle styling and slow but unmethodical (very difficult!) plotting.

  • John Benson
    2019-03-20 06:40

    This book by a Norwegian author explores the stories not told by a fictional Norwegian couple and the impact they have on their own relationship, with their children, and others around them. The stories come out slowly and the suspense is in the silence being partially lifted for us as readers.

  • Yelena
    2019-03-02 07:23

    This book relays grief, loss and loneliness about family secrets and deep seeded pain, but it does so very slowly and that pace made it an exhausting read.

  • NikolayM
    2019-02-25 03:14

    'Jag sa att det finns saker jag inte berättar för någon... Ingen vet vilka vi är. Ingen annan än man själv.'

  • Emmett
    2019-03-20 05:19

    Let me wax poetic about the harmonious symmetry of cover design and book. I forgot to check who was the designer, but this is wonderful. The neutral blank spaces, only slightly tinged with colour and shadow, on the front and the back, and the complementary yet contrasting light lime green on the fold inside that appear when you flip past the cover. It communicates contemplation, reserve, quiet wonder at plainness. The book looks like a Hammershoi - his paintings of sparsely furnished interior spaces, mainly walls and doorways of white or off-white, populated by lone women fully-present but heads turned or lowered, the epitome of half-glimpsed personalities, directs one's attention to the space between objects, the silence that exists in empty rooms and people one never speaks with, the surrounding lacunae in the mysterious meeting of two souls (art and its audience, the gazer and the gazed, but also subtly provoking a contemplation of passersby, people one meets in queues, clinic waiting rooms...). The book reads like one too. It delivers the mystery of silences and its agonies that force the main character, Eva, to examine more closely the everyday interactions between people familiar and not, and the spaces in-between conversations, actions and lack of, that things fall through. Silence is a refusal to communicate, to connect, and as Lindstrøm astutely observes, a refusal to acknowledge that affects the other party on the 'telephone line', a denial of their existence. Told from the perspective of 'the other party' throws an interesting light on the situation. This is not T.S. Eliot's socially-paralysed character who flounders in a sea of silence because he fails to "force the moment to its crisis" (Prufrock). Simon's silence is an attrition, a gradual erasure of speech until that prolonged moment of quiet, for reasons as mysterious as his smiles, or deft looks. Without the affirmation of speech, memory itself is shaken; Eva's memories and impressions of Simon become less certain, however strongly she struggles to hold on to the past. Time, like memory, is demonstratively fluid, the narrative shifting back and forth with turns of phrase to the past, then further back, then now, then last week...More could've been done for 'this quiet but unnerving masterpiece' (not my words, quoted on the cover). There were several times I paused to admire certain sentences but for the most part I expected to be quietly but strongly moved and that emotion did not come through very often. A novel like this, which trades in the undercurrents of contemporary 'normal', 'everyday' life, requires beauty and flint-like truth for it to exist at all (and to a certain extent, make up for the lack of typical excitement; see John Williams' Stoner for an example). Details about Simon's life were supposed to be moving, but they affected me less than I would've liked to be affected. There were moments where I sat there, stunned or awed, but this meandering narrative, for its refusal to engage in proper conclusions (fitting for real life, and appreciated), was compromised by its lack of force.

  • Mark Lisac
    2019-03-22 07:21

    Nordic writers, it turns out, do not all write thrillers and crime stories. It was refreshing to find a Norwegian novel that's a reflective, tightly focused domestic drama — taking "drama" in a rather loose sense because nothing much happens in this story of an aging couple who drift into silence and lack of communication, not just with each other but with their children and most of the world. Each has a secret that might be better talked about. But they do not talk. Does their silence lead to daily, barely perceived tragedy? They might say so if asked, but might not. Is the story an observation or is it a cautionary tale about how not to live? You could take it either way.One interesting twist demands contemplation: the husband once lived for several months or a few years in enforced silence as a child, but found ways to communicate without using words. Even silence seems to have layers.Written with care and precise description of scenes. Fairly gloomy, although it's true that some people lead gloomy lives. It reminded me a little of Marilynne Robinson's "Home" but Lindstrom tells her story more succinctly.

  • Eloise
    2019-03-10 06:32

    This resonated for me in so many ways. It left me feeling bereft for reasons having to do with my age and the anticipation of things to come. It reminded me of my good friend, Leon Leyson, who was saved of Oscar Schindler and who also did not tell his children about his experience in Poland during the war--until they were of a age to better understand. It reminded me of a dear friend whose husband entered early-onset dementia quite some time ago and who spends time in adult daycare. And he no longer recognizes her. Ah, life, it can be so scary.

  • Cathleen
    2019-03-09 03:24

    Typically I love quiet books that keep you inside the head of the main character but this book seemed a little confusing at times and lacked enough substance to keep my interest throughout much of it.

  • Twizted Jaydee
    2019-03-19 04:13

    It was the most boring book ever

  • Jim
    2019-03-20 08:16

    There is something intangible about this book. You cannot grasp silence. You can observe it, its effects, like the wind, but there is always that distance. And there are so many silences: not talking because you’ve forgotten how or don’t want to or because you can’t find the right words or because it’s a secret and the time isn’t right, so you bite your tongue and bide your time. The narrator of this book is an old woman, Eva, although she might as well be nameless. No one calls her that any more. Not even her husband who, in the throes of senility, has lost the ability (and the desire?) to speak. She takes him to a day centre where they look after him but her daughters are putting pressure on her to have him put into a home. Understandably she is reluctant. Just as she was reluctant to have their old dog put down.Several times I have remained standing in the parking lot [of the day care centre], like a mythological figure, filled with doubt, this is the border between the underworld and our own world, I walk across the little stretch of asphalt, with Simon in the corridors inside, if I turn around now, he will disappear forever. I need to tell this to someone, how it feels, how it is so difficult to live with someone who has suddenly become silent. It is not simply the feeling that he is no longer there. It is the feeling that you are not either. Eva and Simon have pasts they don’t talk about except to each other. Now faced with days on end filled with silence she finds she need to talk and so she does, to us, to the readers. She tells us her story, and Simon’s since he can’t join in: about her first child, her son, and what happened to him, about the “episode” with the creepy young man who invaded her home, about the boy she kept running into in the street, about the stranger’s grave she found herself caring for, and about her beloved cleaner Marija and why she had to be dismissed; on Simon’s behalf she tells us about how, as a Jew, he had to go into hiding during the war—he’s more than ten years older than her—and his attempts to locate any surviving members of his family. And, of course, the dog he didn’t really want.With too much time now on her hands Eva finds herself trying to understand so many things. But everything is one or two or three steps removed from her. Sometimes Simon is just there, often dozing; sometimes she has to put on her coat and go looking for him. She is reluctant to “give him away”—a loaded turn of phrase, not a bad translation—and has to be reminded by a young stranger, who has encountered her husband when out on one of his wanderings, that he’s still a person:        He is my, I commenced in an attempt to explain, and before I got to say husband, she said: He is nobody’s.        I looked at her as she gathered her ropes in a bundle in her fist.        He can’t be anybody’s. He isn’t a thing.        She stood up, she looked at him in disappointment. At me. She walked across the parking lot and on past a car, behind a sign at the exit somewhere she disappeared.        He was left there, smiling. I was looking for you, I said.        I said that he must not leave me. You mustn’t leave me, I said.        Simon smiled. I had an urge to slap him. I had an urge to slap something or someone.        I’m so tired, I said.        He placed his hand on the back of mine, stroking it so rapidly it may be that he simply brushed against it. I looked at my hand, at him.        He smiled, but he looked at me. You can still give people away though. The old. The young. The helpless. In the end Marija gives herself away.The language is terse; the punctuation, quirky (my only real gripe with the book); the plot, thin. Metaphors abound. Nordic Noir is most certainly isn’t. Lots of books get labelled “a haunting meditation” on whatever—it’s one of those go-to expressions—but it fits this book more than most. On what exactly I’ll leave up to you to decide; there are a number of viable candidates. If you, as many have, come away from this book thinking you’ve not got it then you probably have. Most of us, when push comes to shove, really don’t have all the answers as to why people have done the things they’ve done, even why we’ve done the things we’ve done and that isn’t always the easiest thing to live with. I related strongly to this book but I can also get why some have hated it.

  • Dawn Ashenbrenner
    2019-03-13 11:26

    I wasn't sure how I felt about this book but it has stayed with me. Would make for a good discussion about loss and defining oneself through relationships.

  • Calamus
    2019-03-25 07:35

    Days in the History of Silence details an aging couple whose reluctance to discuss the secrets that they keep threatens to deepen the gorge of silence between them and others. The narrator, Eva, writes as honestly as she can yet avoids inviting the reader fully into her and her husband Simon’s world. She treats the reader much like she and Simon treat their three daughters—providing enough information to satisfy but staying at a distance. How much of this is for the daughters’ (readers’) protection or for Eva and Simon’s protection is unclear. Eva also seems to be grasping at memories that she isn’t completely sure of: “His cousin…sometimes sat by the window, his face directed out toward the street. No, that was himself. Simon sat looking out the window and down into the street…” Instances like this are common. Half the time it is excused by old age and half is due to Eva reshaping, purposely or not, her memories. Lindstrøm’s writing is remarkably beautiful and I can only imagine how much more wonderful it is in the original Norwegian—a language I’ve thought very little about. Lindstrøm’s sentences are terse but strung together in a way that feels full. The narrator reads both sure and unsure, her reluctance both intriguing and a bit lackadaisical. I was never sure if she, the narrator, meant to keep the reader in the dark or she simply didn’t think about the details she was withholding. Like explaining something that you know in and out but forgetting to share the basic details of that subject. Gathering details about Simon’s childhood during World War II, what their housekeeper and friend Marija did to get fired, and about the baby boy that Eva gave up for adoption when she was young is part of the game that the reader must play with the narrator. Lindstrøm weaves these moments of their past lives effortlessly with their present day-to-day struggle with getting older and lonelier and more silent. It is overall a melancholy story told beautifully, with prose that lingers long after being read. www.calamusworks.com

  • Christina Nina
    2019-02-27 06:35

    This book was incredibly tedious to read. I'm not sure how much of this problem could be contributed to the translation of it; maybe some of its flavor had been lost in translation from Norwegian to English, causing it to seem more bland to me than it really is. I was interested in the idea of it and I could still see the depth of the author shining through in many places. I could appreciate the immense self-reflection that our narrator, Eva, was partaking in. But something about the way it's written gave the story a droning effect, like I was being dragged through memory after memory with little to know understanding of why or where I was going.This story follows Simon and Eva, an elderly couple who've fallen victim to a terrible silence. There are many layers to this silence: Simon's progressive dementia, his tragic childhood that permeates his adult life, the sudden dismissal of their housekeeper they seem unable to explain to their children, but most of all, secrets upon secrets. Both Simon and Eva have secrets they cannot talk about, things that no matter how they try, they cannot move past from. Things they have tried countless times relaying to their children, but continuously fail. This is a reflection on how secrets can poison the relationships your life and just how painful silence can be. Unfortunately, I was left feeling empty at the end. One thing that kept me going whenever I was ready to give up on this book was the secret of Marija's dismissal. It was the big secret that this book and all its other secrets and silences revolved around. I needed to know why they fired Marija. And while it became clear to me that her dismissal was less about her and more about the history that Simon and Eva kept hidden from others, I never understood why I had been strung along throughout the whole book without knowing why Marija was fired. It made the reveal seem so anticlimactic, and I felt like my focus had been deceptively redirected for some purpose that I can't quite figure out.

  • Kimbofo
    2019-02-24 04:24

    A couple of wet and wild Fridays ago I managed to escape the office an hour early and treated myself to a little browse in Daunt Books on Cheapside. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but for some reason I was drawn to Merethe Lindstrøm's Days in the History of Silence and kept picking it up.I had never heard of the author, nor the book, but I decided I had to buy it. There was something about it which suited my mood and the mood of the weather — cold, damp, melancholic. As it turns out, it proved to be a rather morose but elegant and thought-provoking read, perfect for a rainy weekend.The story is about a Norwegian couple, Eva and Simon, who are living quiet lives in retirement — he was a physician, she was a high school teacher. But this is no ordinary couple. They have spent their entire married life together keeping secrets from their children — three daughters, who are now grown up with families of their own.The first is that Eva had a child out of wedlock before she met and married Simon — she gave her son up for adoption when he was six months old and has never seen him since, although she has often thought about him and once tried to track him down (secretly, of course).The second is that Simon is a Jew from Eastern Europe, whose family went into hiding when the Nazis came to power. He was the sole survivor of the Holocaust — everyone else he knew perished in the extermination camps — but he later discovered that he had a cousin living in Berlin, which revived traumatic memories and plunged him into a severe depression.Now, in their later lives, Eva and Simon have another secret to keep: they have dismissed the home help they hired (under pressure from their daughters) for reasons they don't wish to discuss.To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  • Ivana
    2019-03-11 10:21

    Starenje, taj ireverzibilni životni proces, koji nas zaskoči i onda pretresamo događaje kojih smo bili pokretači ili tek puki nemoćni promatrači... Kako su se te stvari odrazile na nas, na našu obitelj? Pripovjedačica starije životne dobi prvo se osvrće na događaj kada joj je nepoznati muškarac pokucao na vrata i zamolio da ga pusti u kuću kako bi mogao telefonirati. Iako naslućuje da je posudba telefona tek izgovor da uđe u njezinu kuću, ona ga pušta unutra. A onda se javlja osjećaj nemoći jer tu su i njezine tri male kćeri. To da je posudba telefona bila samo izlika uskoro se pokazuje točnom. Ali on ni njoj ni djeci ne čini ništa nažao i iznenada, kao što je došao, odlazi. Često se tijekom prisjećanja ostalih životnih zbivanja norveška pripodvjedačica Eva vraća na tog muškraca, mladića. Opisana su još mnoga zbivanja, većinom unutarnja previranja ne toliko pripovjedačice koliko njezina supruga Simona koji je kao dječak preživio veliku ratnu traumu o kojoj nije govorio svojim kćerima, a Eva ga je hladno norveški često odbijala slušati. Nakon što ga je zbog dementnosti prisiljena dati u dom za starije, ona razmišlja o stvarima koje joj je govorio, kako se osjećao, kako se nosio sa svime. Samo ljubav prema nekome može staviti drugu osobu u prvi plan u odnosu na nas same. Ni priče o trima kćerima i sinu kojeg je dala na posvajanje ne posjeduju toliko riječi s koliko opisuje svog voljenog Simona.No, sve se svodi na to da starimo i što god da učinimo, starost i propadanje vlastitog tijela, možda čak i bića, ne možemo izbjeći. Sudbina je zapečaćena, bez obzira na to kako u životu odigrali svoje karte.

  • Helen
    2019-02-28 04:27

    An elderly Norwegian couple (living in a city which may be Bergen?) keep themselves to themselves, and have no friends. The husband Simon, a former physician, has a form of dementia and says very little - one of the many silences of the book. The wife, the narrator, is a former teacher, and a rather cold character. Both have their own secrets (he is Jewish, and spent the war years in another country in hiding and in enforced silence, but his children know nothing about his past: she had a child before her marriage, and gave the baby up for adoption after six months, having failed to bond with him. Again, the adult daughters know nothing about this). The couple have another hidden thing, the reason for the dismissal of their home help who had become a friend. Some of these secrets are never really unravelled, unless I missed the point (is the young man whose grave the wife visits actually her lost son? Or is that only what she may be thinking? What is the significance of the intruder episode?) There is no real conclusion either - will she get round to filling in the form which will send her husband into a care home, or not? However, this is a beautifully written book, and its picture of the ageing process and of the long-term effects of wartime experiences is very believable (I have an example close to home of the secrets of a family, or at least one person's view of it, emerging only through fairly toxic written accounts found in the home of an elderly person who never actually discussed any of the events with anyone. Perhaps I should write a novel about it!)A story which will make you think and which might come back to haunt you.

  • Ina
    2019-03-13 07:38

    My expectations were high when I started reading, but after some pages I realized there was no arc of suspense and I shouldn't expect one either. The story is about silence, and mostly about the 'bad' silence. Secrets unrevealed, being a constant burden. It's a rather depressing and sad story about an old couple - he, suffering from dementia, starts talking to his wife. She is struggling with that fact, especially because only she knows his whole story (he is a jew, most of his family died in the holocaust) and wants him to tell it to their children. But this chance has long ago passed, and even as they have to fire their househelp because she turns out to be an anti-Semite, they won't tell their children the real reason. The whole atmosphere of this story is gloomy the way it's written, you get small hints and bites until you get the whole point, but there is no real beginning or end. So if you want to read a good story about the 'dark side' of silence and want to get this creepy felling of sitting in a room with others, full of tension and nobody talking, I can recommend it.