A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Guest poster Holly has been considering Trilby Kent’s new novel Silent Noon. (Disclosure: Trilby used to be a Book Fox, waaaaay back in the day, but Holly didn’t know that.)
This novel is set in September 1953 at a boys’ boarding school on a tiny island called Lindsey in the remote North Sea. The story follows the arrival of fourteen-year old Barney Holland and his integration with the rest of the rowdy male population of the school.
With nearly every character introduced within the first couple of pages, the reader is thrown into the life of a young teenager trying to survive his first experience of a boarding school that upholds the stereotypical tradition of bullying the vulnerable boys in an attempt to mould them into the young men they ought to be. Barney only makes one friend in the first third of the book, until Ivor Morell and Belinda Flood turn up. Ivor is a senior student who takes pity on Barney in a teasing and insulting way, and Belinda is the disgraced daughter of the headmaster who now has no option but to attend school with the boys for the rest of the year.
The blurb for Silent Noon advertises a plot full of danger and mystery, though this is an exaggeration: while many possible sub-plots, secrets and mysteries are hinted at throughout the novel, only a few are ever clarified as being fact. This leaves the reader in bewilderment as to which details are supposed to be paid attention to and which are simply elegantly described red herrings littered across the pages. The real excitement only takes place at the conclusion of the novel. All the chapters leading up to the end of the novel are a breeding ground for rumours, many of which could be thought unnecessary and distracting.
As a boarding school survivor myself I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy with which Barney’s school was imagined. Although there were some differences between mine and his (mixed sex versus single sex, pointedly disappointed comments versus canings) it’s good to know that some elements of boarding school are universal: strict rules that everyone ignores, and decent food that everyone claims to be revolting in order to look cool.
If you were to guess at the plot of a novel called Silent Noon, you might think the genre would be horror or mystery, or even something to do with a very quiet lunch. It’s a little disappointing to find that Barney’s story is neither scary nor mysterious and his lunches are not particularly quiet. However misleading the title may be, Kent has done her research on post-war Britain and life on a remote island: there are numerous little details to remind the reader of what era the novel is set in. But I would recommend Silent Noon to readers who own a thesaurus.
Trilby Kent, Silent Noon (Alma Books, 2013), ISBN 9781846882906, £12.99
Holly is finding out what being a classroom assistant is like, and may be acquiring earplugs soon.