This Taste For Silence is a stunning collection of stories about silences. From comfortable ones to sinister ones, we’re reminded that among the constant noise it’s the silences that sometimes carry the most meaning.
The balance of power in a marriage shifts, with shocking consequences. An elderly woman recounts a chilling childhood memory on the family farm. A taxi driver with a missing wife reveals unexpected skills. An inherited painting brings an eerily troubling legacy.
I used to actively avoid short story collections. I credit Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil with steering me back towards the genre. They’re wonderful to dip in and out of when you’re not in the mood to commit to a 300-page narrative.
Amanda O’Callaghan’s collection is beautifully written. It flips from England to Australia and back again with each story but the theme is always the same. The unspoken, the unseen, the gaps between what we say and what we don’t.
I loved that the main characters of these stories are often older women, a demographic that is too often missing from literature. Unless to make a brief appearance as a crone or somebody’s disapproving grandmother.
The stories vary from just a single page to a couple of dozen pages. My favourite was “A Widow’s Snow”, the story of an older widow who finds herself unexpectedly lonely and decides to let a man in to fill the silence of her life. The joy of the writing is in the small things. These are the opening lines:
Roger, Maureen decided, is the kind of man who would appreciate an old-fashioned pudding. She flicked through the best of her recipe books, toyed with ideas like spiced apple tart with a rich pastry crust – Gerald’s favourite, so not really an option – and all manner of sponges, even soufflés.
O’Callaghan manages to convey so much with so little. We eventually find out that Roger is the man she has invited round to dinner. Gerald is her dead husband.
Lying in wait in many of the stories are darker secrets hiding in everyday scenarios. It’s a wonderful, literary read.
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Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.