A Small Dark Quiet by Miranda Gold #BookReview #BlogTour

March, 1945. The ravaged face of London will soon be painted with victory, but for Sylvie, the private battle for peace is just beginning. When one of her twins is stillborn, she is faced with a consuming grief for the child she never had a chance to hold. A Small Dark Quiet follows a mother as she struggles to find the courage to rebuild her life and care for an orphan whom she and her husband, Gerald, adopt two years later.
Born in a concentration camp, the orphan’s early years appear punctuated with frail speculations, opening up a haunting space that draws Sylvie to bring him into parallel with the child she lost. When she gives the orphan the stillborn child’s name, this unwittingly entangles him in a grief he will never be able to console. His own name has been erased, his origins blurred. Arthur’s preverbal trauma begins to merge with the loss he carries for Sylvie, released in nightmares and fragments of emerging memories to make his life that of a boy he never knew. He learns all about ‘that other little Arthur’, yearning both to become him and to free himself from his ghost. He can neither fit the shape of the life that has been lost nor grow into the one his adopted father has carved out for him.
As the novel unfolds over the next twenty years, Arthur becomes curious about his Jewish heritage, but fears what this might entail – drawn towards it, it seems he might find a sense of communion and acceptance, but the chorus of persecutory voices he has internalised becomes too overwhelming to bear. He is threatened as a child with being sent back where he belongs but no one can tell him where this is. He wanders as an adult looking for purpose but is unable to find his place. Feeling an imposter both at home and in the city, Arthur’s yearning for that sense of belonging echoes in our own time.
Meeting Lydia seems to offer Arthur the opportunity to recast himself, yet all too soon he is trapped in a repetition of what he was trying to escape. A past he can neither recall nor forget lives on within him even as he strives to forge a life for himself. Survival, though, insists Arthur keeps searching and as he opens himself to the world around him, there are flashes of just how resilient the human heart can be.
Through Sylvie’s unprocessed grief and Arthur’s acute sense of displacement, A Small Dark Quiet explores how the compulsion to fill the empty space death leaves behind ultimately makes the devastating void more acute. Yet however frail, the instinct for empathy and hope persists in this powerful story of loss, migration and the search for belonging.   

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for A Small Dark Quiet today. Many thanks to Miranda Gold, Unbound and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for sending me a copy of the novel.

A Small Dark Quiet is a challenging, complex book which takes the reader back and forth through the years, beginning in 1945 up to 1968. The story isn't told in a linear fashion but rather has an almost stream-of-consciousness sense to it, which means that it's not an easy book to follow but it powerfully captures the emotional torment of the various characters. Miranda Gold has taken the bold step of never quite revealing the full story behind any of the characters' lives and yet there is enough contained within the pages for readers to understand each of their tragedies.
These are people for whom the lives they were supposed to lead have been interrupted in some way. Sylvie should have brought twins home from the hospital but only Harry survived; she never even got to hold her Arthur who was whisked away from her and in a deeply touching scene, we learn she wove a tiny corpse from twigs, sticks, moss and stones and buried her baby, promising to visit him in his second womb every Thursday. Her husband, Gerald comes back from the war to a wife who has lost her smile but he too has been irrevocably changed by his experiences. His shame at suffering from what we would now understand to be PTSD means he overcompensates for what he sees as his own failings by becoming a demanding, impatient bully to his wife and sons. Gerald's shame also extends to his faith; the Holocaust has meant he is painfully aware of what has been done to Jewish people and his response is anger at those who he considers to be too Jewish, believing they make themselves a target for hatred. He insists his sons grow up as brave soldiers but his self-hatred frequently causes him to turn on the boy they adopted after he was rescued from a concentration camp and poignantly named Arthur by Sylvie. This 'small dark quiet' in their midst cannot heal so much grief and loss, and this Arthur - someone else's little someone - grows up without ever knowing who he really is.
When Arthur meets Lydia, he hopes he might finally reinvent himself but the Noble, Honourable Arthur he imagined becomes caught between two lives broken by their pasts - his own and Lydia's, whose fragility is revealed as the full extent of her horrific history becomes gradually clear. Arthur never fully confronts his own past but he strikes up a friendship of sorts with his neighbour, Jack and the glimpse of a number tattooed on his arm is enough to trigger what he tells himself are just nightmares but are undoubtedly memories of being buried alive under the dead and dying in the concentration camp. I wondered if Jack was going to be a conduit for Arthur learning about who he really was but this isn't a novel about resolutions and as with many young victims of the Holocaust, Arthur remains just another displaced child, in ignorance of his true heritage.
I never really felt I truly knew any of the characters in A Small Dark Quiet but then I never felt they truly knew themselves either. The often almost feverish prose means it's often difficult to work out what is really happening and what is just taking place in the mind of the characters and as such means the reader shares the questioning of self and truth which permeates through the novel.
A Small Dark Quiet is an intriguing, rather mournful book which will not please those who seek answers within their fiction, preferring instead to leave the stories only partially told with the characters never really finding the resolutions we perhaps expect. It's not necessarily a satisfying read then but it is brave and thought-provoking literary fiction which demands its readers take a risk to try something which may be outside their comfort zones and I applaud the author for that. These characters and their fractured stories will stay with me as a reminder of all those whose lives have been displaced for whatever reason.

A Small Dark Quiet is published by Unbound and can be purchased from the following;
Amazon UK

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Concert pianist in a parallel universe, novelist in this, Miranda Gold is a woman whose curiosity about the instinct in us all to find and tell stories qualifies her to do nothing but build worlds out of words.
Miranda’s first love was theatre and advises anyone after a dose of laughter in dark (along with a ferocious lesson in subtext) to look no further than the cheese sandwich in Pinter’s The Homecoming. No less inspiring were the boisterous five year olds she taught drama to and the youth groups she supported to workshop and stage their scripts. Both poetry and its twin, music, have been fundamental in her process as a writer and her hope is that the novel can tap into some of their magic to unleash the immediacy and visceral power of language – qualities that keep the reader on the page as well as turning it. Gatsby, To the Lighthouse and The Ballad of the Sad CafĂ© are books she will always come back to, always finding another door left ajar. Having the opportunity to mentor prisoners at Pentonville reaffirmed for her the connections that can be made when we find a narrative and a shape that can hold experience. There have been fleeting fantasies of becoming a Flamenco dancer, but sadly she has the coordination of an inebriated jelly fish.
Her first novel, Starlings, published by Karnac (2016) reaches back through three generations to explore how the impact of untold stories ricochets down the years. In her review for The Tablet, Sue Gaisford described Starlings as “a strange, sad, original and rather brilliant first novel, illumined with flashes of glorious writing and profound insight, particularly into the ways in which we attempt to reinvent ourselves.” Before turning her focus to fiction, Miranda attended the Soho Course for young writers where her play, Lucky Deck, was selected for development and performance. 


  1. thanks so much for this fabulous blog tour support Karen x


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