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A History of Silence

A History of Silence: A Memoir

Lloyd Jones

  • awardShortlisted, New Zealand Post Book Awards, New Zealand, 2014
  • Stone by stone the basilica was being dismantled in order to be put back together again. Each stone was painted with a number and laid with care onto pallets spread over the ground…I kept thinking about those numbered stones. Some purpose began to take shape. I began to wonder if I might re-trace and recover something of my own past, to reassemble it in the manner of the basilica. It was a matter of looking to see if any of the original building blocks remained, and where I might find them. 

    A History of Silence is a book about a country and a broken landscape. It’s about the devastation in Christchurch, after the 2011 earthquake. It’s about how easily we erase stories we find inconvenient. It’s about the fault lines which that cataclysmic event opened up in Lloyd Jones’ understanding of his own family history. 

    In A History of Silence Jones embarks on a quest for the truth about his family. What happened? Why do there seem to be so few stories? Why are there so few mementos? The answers he finds are completely unexpected and change everything.  

    Media highlights
    Kirkus Reviews
    Booktopia, with Caroline Baum
    ABCTV One Plus One, with Jane Hutcheon
    ABC Classic FM, with Margaret Throsby
    ABC Radio National, Books and Arts Daily
    ABC Melbourne, with Jon Faine
    ABC Brisbane, with Richard Fidler

    Watch Lloyd give a reading during the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival at the Wheeler Centre.

    Lloyd Jones
    About the Author

    Lloyd Jones was born in New Zealand. His best-known works include Mister Pip, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Book of Fame, winner of numerous literary awards, Hand Me Down World, A History of Silence and The Cage.

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    Text publication date:
    21 August 2013
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    Praise for Lloyd Jones
    andA History of Silence

    ‘Jones is a daring writer who can be relied on to ignore expectation, and is becoming one of the most interesting, honest and thought-provoking novelists working today.' 

    ‘Poetically observed detail and an affecting evocation of the past will reward readers interested in the way our history (even, or especially, that which we don’t know about) can shape us.’

    ‘This is a poetic and deeply felt musing about what can be discovered, or what can simply be remembered, and the effect this has on one’s purview. Set against the literal and figurative backdrop of the 2011 earthquake that devastated Christchurch and that shook his own foundation, Jones’s memoir is a melancholy and luscious exploration of the amnesia that allows us to move forward in life.’

    ‘A knockout, a fresh and immaculately paced study of the process by which old information becomes new, and one of the bravest and best-written memoirs I have read.’

    ‘This memoir of a family life of secrets is an evocative and lyrical piece of writing that springs to life at the first page and never lets up….Jones is an intriguing and unpredictable writers, and this memoir is almost poetic in its stark and literary quality….An exquisitely written [book] and one that is remarkably well crafted.’ 5 star review

    ‘It would be difficult to think of another novelist as original or fearless as…Lloyd Jones.' 

    A History of Silence quickly establishes itself as a captivating memoir…Jones has written a brave and remarkable tribute to his forbears.’

    ‘Memoir shrinks themes and holds them close to the bone. It brings out the poet in Jones as he scours family letters and bureaucratic records in New Zealand and Wales for clues. It’s a meandering investigation…but with Jones the meandering is a pleasurable experience, gently paced and studded with lovely phrasing.’

    ‘The stories Jones uncovers speak of loss, displacement, unbearable sadness, but also courage.’

    ‘Jones skilfully gives the reader the point of view of the growing child making the best of things in a charmless Wellington suburb, but as the child becomes the man…the book gathers an urgency and poignancy that at times becomes as painful as pulling flesh across barbed wire, and we become aware the lineaments of grand tragedy can be found in the back streets of Lower Hutt.’

    A History of Silence is as strange, wilful and compelling as his fiction.’

    ‘Throughout this brilliant memoir the ultimate impact of the book lies with how openly and humanely Jones responds, as an author and a son, to a truer picture of his family. In this, it does what I suspect we’d like all family memoirs to do. Before filling the silence, it listens for what might lie behind it.’

    ‘Scenes from Jones’s childhood bubble up into consciousness, circle and are absorbed back into his search for the truth that lay behind them. It’s this most of all that give Silence its poetic, haunting quality.’

    ‘Those who enjoy quality literature should savour this deeply moving and beautifully communicated memoir.’

    ‘Achingly poetic.’

    Other editions ofA History of Silence
    • A History of Silence
      ISBN: 9781922148360
      21 August 2013
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