Source: Review copy
Publication: 2nd April 2020 from Century
A lifetime of love. Six months of silence. One last chance.
Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.
For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.
Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet, but it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.
Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?
Gosh but Abbie Greaves’ book is a beautifully rendered emotional read! It’s a love story wrapped in a mystery and so wrought with fractured emotions and tension that you want to find a way to intervene and make this couple communicate.
The Silent Treatment is a deeply intimate portrait of a relationship. Frank and Maggie have been married for 40 years. Eleanor is their only child, conceived long after they had given up trying and that just makes her extra special to them both.
Told initially in the voices of Maggie and Frank, the novel traces their relationship and where and how things went wrong. So we hear from Frank as he reads Maggie’s journal written in the form of letters and that enables us to understand what he is thinking and feeling as he does so.
Maggie and Frank have not spoken for 6 months, now we wonder if they will ever speak to each other again. Abbie Greaves’ accomplished debut is a heart-wrenching story of love and what can happen when two people stop meaningful communication and how relationships can dwindle on the vine if not nurtured and tended to with honesty.
As Frank reads, he’s talking to Maggie, explaining himself and as he recounts their life together it adds poignancy knowing that he may be too late in deciding to speak now.
The reader is witness to the initial strength of their love they met at University. Frank was shy and a little bit stuffy and Maggie was his heart’s desire. 40 years later and a climactic event has brought Frank to his knees. For six months he and Maggie have been punishing with each other with the silent treatment until, finally, Maggie has given Frank long enough and cannot bear it any longer.
The author slowly drip feeds the reasons for the fissure and as we come to understand the reasons for it, we realise that the love has not diminished but misunderstandings and parental heartbreak meant that secrets grew and resentment flourished.
Through Frank’s narrative we hear the story of their relationship, courtship marriage and of their lives as parents, which is what is at the heart of their current problems. It is a beautifully rendered portrait of love tinged with a host of other emotions from fear to guilt to plain worry, sadness and anxiety, showing us how even the best of relationships can falter in the face of enormous pressures.
Maggie’s journal is the catalyst for progressing the story and enabling us to find out what was in her mind as we hear Frank’s reactions. A host of tragic incidents has led them to distance each other and to question the basis of their relationship and whether they were even good parents. Years of keeping secrets, being afraid of the other’s judgement and deciding on silence as the answer has broken this pair.
A switch in narrative technique enables to give us Maggie’s reactions and perspective to Frank’s declarations and this adds a layer of emotional clarity to our understanding. She tackles some strong and difficult themes and does so unflinchingly, making for some quite raw moments.
Verdict: Beautifully written, well-paced and immaculately plotted this is an immensely compelling book with a propulsive plot line and an emotionally wrought turbo charge. Read with a box of tissues.
Abbie Greaves was born in Oxford in 1992. From an early age, she enjoyed making up miraculous stories for her class’ ‘Weekend Review’, none of which had even the faintest footing in truth. Those six-year olds may have had a pretty good idea of what was to come…A love of books led her to study English Literature at the University of Cambridge. After graduation, she spent three years in publishing. She wrote her first novel The Silent Treatment (2020) whilst working as an assistant to a literary agent in London. When she told her school friends that she had penned her own book, none of them were altogether surprised.She currently lives in Edinburgh with her boyfriend, John, and is hard at work on her follow-up novel, The Ends Of The Earth. With the time that isn’t spent writing or reading (the greatest hobby of all), She forces herself to group exercise classes and knit to try and keep her phone-checking habit to a minimum.