In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones
I approached this debut Australian novel with some caution, because it centres on a literary device that I can find off-putting: main character Cate is dead and narrating the story from her afterlife. But In the Quiet isn’t at all concerned about where Cate is, or what is happening to her in death. It’s firmly focused on the living, and letting us see their lives unfold through Cate’s eyes.
The novel follows Cate’s three teenage children, along with her husband, her sister, her best friend and her best friend’s nephew, as they deal with their grief over Cate’s unexpected death and the general ups and downs of everyday life. Set on a farm in rural Victoria, the book is filled with dirt, dust and plenty of horses. Time is slippery in In the Quiet, and Cate herself often doesn’t know how much time is passing, and must piece it together as she watches her loved ones.
Eliza Henry-Jones is a young author (only twenty five) and she writes with remarkable maturity. She clearly loves her characters and knows them intimately, and that shines through in the writing, which is filled with a deep empathy. In the Quiet is a gentle story, but it doesn’t shy away from the gritty, difficult parts of grief and growing up. It isn’t sickly sweet or overly sentimental, and Henry-Jones is especially skilled at writing teenage characters and capturing all of the mess, uncertainty and heartbreak of that age.
In the Quiet is an accomplished first book from an exciting new talent. I fell in love with it slowly, over the course of many chapters. It’s a quiet book (appropriately named) and an utterly lovely one.
Nina Kenwood is the digital marketing manager for Readings.