A History of Silence, by Lloyd Jones (Penguin, 2013), 273 pp., $38
From the first lines of the first page, Jones draws you into his finely sketched world. Scattered throughout the present are links and clues to his past. His apartment occupies the old shoe factory, which manufactured his childhood shoes. A book, gifted to his father with a flyleaf inscription from his mother, expresses more love between them than he ever observed in his family years. Through his childhood eyes we glimpse the inaccessible Spartan starkness of their motel-like twin bedroom home.
Slowly the past is brought into the picture, from childhood recollections to musing on how Captain James Cook’s artist William Hodges civilised and Anglicised the eighteenth-century antipodean wilderness landscapes he captured on canvas. As the jigsaw pieces of his world are turned over and fitted together, we glimpse the decidedly inauspicious beginnings of his parents’ lives – one as an orphan, the other given up for adoption at age four.
Jones and his siblings grow up in a New Zealand that survives now, surely, as little more than a fading memory for him and his fellow baby-boomers. [Read more…]