I had not previously read many ghost stories so I was intrigued by the premise of The Silent Children. The debut novel by Amna K. Boheim is a haunting tale about one family’s history, a history that holds secrets and isn’t always what it seems.
‘There it was, waiting for me. A letter. From her. My estranged mother.’
The Silent Children tells the story of Max who receives a letter from his estranged mother Annabel out of the blue. Terminally ill, she expresses her desire to meet with him before her death but she also wishes for him to help her with something else. She encloses a photograph from her childhood of her with a young boy – she doesn’t give his name but she remembers him. Annabel’s dying wish is for her son to find the boy in the photograph, and in finding him he will learn the secrets of his mother’s long buried past. My interest was immediately piqued and I couldn’t wait to find out the identity of the boy in the photo, and to know more about Annabel and her story, and what exactly needs to be explained…
‘It goes against everything I believe…But there’ve been things at the house. Things that I’ve heard and seen.’
The novel alternates between two timelines. The first takes place in London in 2004 and is narrated by Max as he first receives the letter and embarks on a journey to find out more. Alongside this is a third person narrative taking place in Vienna describing Annabel’s life from 1937 through to 2004. This worked well and I enjoyed the gradual reveal of information as the secrets of Annabel’s past begin to emerge. With a little help from some of Annabel’s old friends Max begins to piece together his family history but nothing is as it seems. Max is haunted by past secrets, and by something much harder to explain. He senses he is not alone, and there are supernatural occurrences to add to Max’s turmoil. The book is advertised as a modern day ghost story and it certainly has an atmospheric, gothic feel to it. I was keen to get to the bottom of what happened, to see what secrets and surprises were in store and the switch between past and present kept me gripped until the end.
‘I knew it would take a long time to recover from what had happened, but I decided to face it head on…Besides, there was too much to hide from.’
I enjoyed The Silent Children, it is a gripping story of family secrets, tragedy and revenge. I found it to be an atmospheric, mysterious story and an impressive debut from Amna K. Boheim.
The Silent Children was published on 28th November 2015 by Matador Books. Many thanks to Amna K. Boheim for providing me with a copy for review.