Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication: 11 March 2018 by Bloondhound Books
Acquisition: e-galley courtesy of Bloodhound Books and NetGalley
(From the Publisher)
The patient has a story that isn’t told and which no one knows of. It is the secret, the rock against which he is shattered. Carl Jung
The Great War is over but for Edith Potter an equally devastating conflict is about to begin.
She is unhinged by a secret so terrible her conscious mind doesn’t acknowledge it.
It is 1927 and Dr Stephen Maynard is using the new science of psychoanalysis to restore her sanity.
From his first meeting with her in the lunatic asylum, Dr Stephen Maynard is determined to bring her back to reality. During the long challenge, her disturbed behaviour forces him to confront his limitations – already severely stretched by the presence of someone prepared to use whatever weapons they can to ensure she maintains her silence.
I’ve always found the topic of psychiatry and the history of psychiatric hospitals (or lunatic asylums as they were called back in the day) fascinating. So I pounced of Walls of Silence.
It is for sure quite original, but a few things bothered me.
1) I didn’t like any of the characters, apart from maybe Helen, who isn’t as bad as the others. They are all very humanely flawed, so kudos to Ruth Wade for creating such realistic, human characters. But neither Edith, Edward, Peter nor Stephen had anything that made them likeable to me. I guess PC Billings was quite a nice guy. I find it quite difficult to care about characters I don’t like.
2) I get that the whole novel deals with psychiatry but the medical debates between Peter and Stephen were quite difficult to follow for someone who hasn’t much knowledge of it and just bogged the story down. Entire chapters were merely made of conversations between the two men on psychoanalysis or Stephen’s personality. Some of the scenes where Stephen works in Edith also go on and on and make for slow reading.
3) The twist at the end was quite good, actually. I personally never saw it coming. But everything is still unclear as we aren’t told enough about what happened. And it’s a bit of a WTF moment, if you’ll excuse my French (side note – I’m French, I get to use this saying :-D).
Now, on to the good things.
1) Ruth Wade did an amazing job at recreating the time period (1927). As you read, you’re just there with the characters, part of the everyday life of the time, without even realising there is world building going on. From a historical fiction point of view, it’s a 10 out of 10.
2) I loved the shell-shocked veterans of WW1, having them as characters was so beautifully done. Actually, I wish they had a more prominent role in Walls of Silence as it is a fascinating subject. So, if Ruth Wade ever reads this, please write a novel about it, I’ll be the first in line to buy it!