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Book Review: "When We Were Silent" by Fiona McPhillips

5/5 - a fantastic, heart-pounding and dynamic thriller...

By Annie KapurPublished 29 days ago 3 min read
From: GoodReads

Sometimes, I do understand the term 'doom-scrolling' but I wonder whether it counts if I'm doing it on the Penguin Books website. This is where I found the book When We Were Silent by Fiona McPhillips, it just dragged me in automatically. I read the description, the short snippets of reviews and looked intently at the cover whilst I contemplated whether to get it. But whilst I was doing said contemplating, I had already hovered over the 'buy' button and bought it. Thankfully, I bought it on my Kindle and so, I wouldn't have to wait to read it. From a woman who has to confront her past to the same woman who becomes frightened when her daughter wants to join a swimming club.

Lou tells us in flashbacks what happened when she was admitted to a prestigious position at a posh school despite coming from a working class background. In the air, there are streaks of nepotism and snobbery, classism and comments about Lou's mother not having a car to take her to away matches - which is why she has to get a ride with one of the teachers. In the years prior to this though, we learn about a young girl named Tina who killed herself and the reason was never really proven, though Lou shouted about it from the top of her lungs. Desperate to reveal this strange secret that loops others into the mix, Lou will have to set a trap. But, as she wades deeper into the open waters to make sure she gets proof this time, she may be in over her head.

Within Lou's friendship circle we first have Melissa who is needy to say the least. As Lou learns more about her, she looks less like a girl out of her mind and more like a figure of pity and sympathy. Then, there's Shauna Powers who is this towering pillar of beauty and grace but also a frightening figure to Lou and though they slowly become friends, Lou learns that Shauna changed before she came along. Shauna used to be one of those wild girls who had a different boyfriend every week and went partying etc. - that stopped when she joined the swimming club and almost abruptly so. Lou may have to betray some key people, but there is a truth to things that she must unfold.

From: Dublog

In the present, Lou has a wife and a daughter with an ex-husband who is aloof to say the least. Overprotective and in distressing states of emotion, we see the same concern that Lou's mother gives to her when Lou takes a scolding bath that Lou gives to her own daughter when she comes home from school wanting to miss a P.E lesson in the afternoon.

I was actually really happy I read this book because the story and how it unfolds is absolutely gripping. We are taken back and forth in sections relative to the past and the present to investigate alongside the main character, what is really going on here and what she plans to do about it. There are real risks to life in which Lou faces what she might lose for speaking out against these very real horrors and the author does a great job of turning a normal atmosphere into a terrifying one simply through conversation or action. Like Lou, we are set on edge, biting the insides of our lips until they bleed and digging our fingernails into our palms until they leave a mark. It is quite a remarkable piece of thriller fiction.

Another thing I have to say I enjoyed was the way in which the author crafts the story by first presenting Lou as an overprotective and slightly neurotic mother. At first you don't understand it and then the story takes you back and lets you know everything, every single in and out and why therefore, Lou trusts absolutely nobody with her daughter - not even when she finds pictures on her daughter's social media. Without leaving a trace, Lou has to make herself understand things that she wish she didn't have to. We also have to understand Lou.

This is a great book and I feel relieved that I have actually come across it because it proves that my 'doom-scrolling' the Penguin page was not actually a bad idea after all. This novel is going to make me definitely look out for more works by the same author and, if you enjoy the works of Lisa Jewell and women in thriller - then this is definitely a book you will find just as enjoyable as I did.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

Secondary English Teacher & Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (2)

  • Esala Gunathilake29 days ago

    Review is well deserved.

  • Kendall Defoe 29 days ago

    I don't always leave a comment because of my schedule, my househunting, and due to the fact that I do not want to add more books to my TBR list (I am dropping things off in book boxes and it is breaking my heart). But I thank you for this... I will try to get back to old me and start hunting day. ;)

Annie KapurWritten by Annie Kapur

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