Blurb: It is 1904 and Rebecca Lawrence, a shy young woman tied to the village she was raised in, is taken by her father across England and placed into a society that will bring her confidence and conflict, and also set her on a path to falling in love.
When years later the First World War threatens the life she has built for herself, she is faced with the choice of either protecting those she cares for, or revealing a great secret that will destroy them.
My Review: *****stars!
The Silent Land begins prior to WWI, and Rebecca is a teenager sitting by the bedside of her ailing mother. She starts reading (what she thinks) is just a book, then realizes, a little way into it, that it is actually her mother’s diary. Torn between guilt not to read it, and curiosity to do so, she would often come back to it as the years go by, revealing a shocking secret at the end. She is convinced to get away from the sickroom for the evening, and go to a community dance with some friends for the evening. She reluctantly goes, and when she returns, her mother has died in her absence.
Her father decides to sell the family home and move closer to London, and his sister, to escape the haunting happy memories of his wife, and for his sister to be a female influence on Rebecca. She grows, marries, has a family. WWI begins, and sees her husband and cousin, as well as many of the men in her community be sent off to fight. This is a very good book, taking you through a journey of a portion of Rebecca’s life, and an unexpected ending (which to me), made it all even that much better. My thanks to David Dunham for providing me with a copy of this book. It will definitely be reread! : )
Interview with Author David Dunham
twogalsandabook: Did you always want to be an author?
David Dunham: No. Like many children, growing up I wanted to either be in Star Wars or somehow become Marty McFly.
twogalsandabook: At what age did you start writing?
David Dunham: I’m sure I wrote a story in two in school, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I took it a wee bit more seriously, and eventually, a lot more seriously.
twogalsandabook: Do you read a lot? Do you have any favorite books, authors, genres, or poets?
David Dunham: I read fiction critically, non-fiction for relaxation, and have phases where poetry is my cup of tea. Chronologically, I would list: Roald Dahl, Tolkien, Roddy Doyle, D.H Lawrence, Philip Roth, and then a bit of Dickens, Forster, Waugh, Eliot and many others.
twogalsandabook: What ambitions do you have for your writing career?
David Dunham: I have a few lurking somewhere, but principally, I aim to improve whatever sentence I’ve just written.
twogalsandabook: Is there anything you are working on now?
David Dunham: I’m working on a YA fantasy novel called The Legend of Caradoc, which is set in present day Cornwall and tracks the journey of a schoolboy called Jack Caradoc. On his sixteenth birthday, Jack escapes an assassination attempt and is told of a legend about him that stretches back hundreds of years.
twogalsandabook: Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any favorite writing rituals or atmosphere?
David Dunham: At a desk in a quiet room with not too many distractions. I prefer to start early and in silence, with a plunger of coffee nearby.
twogalsandabook: How do you deal with writer’s block?
David Dunham: I tend to go for a stroll, which seems to help. The stroll often involves making a cup of tea.
twogalsandabook: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
David Dunham: Find someone you are confident is objective, fair and happy to be blunt. And then ask them to read your work.
twogalsandabook: How do you deal with negative reviews or criticism?
David Dunham: Consider if it is fair, why it is so, swallow hard, and move on.
twogalsandabook: Did you have to do much research for The Silent Land?
David Dunham: At the time I believe I was. It involved many hours of looking through reports, records, reading letters for how language was pitched, studying old photos and much more. Fortunately, I could draw on my memory for the locations as they were areas I was raised in.
twogalsandabook: Will The Silent Land be part of a series?
David Dunham: There is a sequel titled The Catesby Committee, that opens in 1939 and is based on the lives on two boys, James and Sebastian. They are young in The Silent Land and I have often thought they would have much to experience in adulthood.
twogalsandabook: Who would you recommend to read The Silent Land?
David Dunham: A historical fiction fan, but also anyone who enjoys a quietly intense character.
twogalsandabook: Has a trailer been made for the book?
David Dunham: It hasn’t no, though it would be fun.
twogalsandabook: Were any of the characters in the book based on actual historical figures?
David Dunham: A critical part of the narrative, The Battle of Gheluvelt, is real, but the characters are not based upon anyone in particular. I always considered though that Rebecca’s grief was universal for all those who suffered so terribly during World War One.
twogalsandabook: The Silent Land was written starting at the tail end of what many consider the tail end of the Edwardian Era and spans through (what many Brits call) the “Miserable Decade” or “Years”, through WWI. Do you have a special affinity for that time in history? What inspired you to use that time, as opposed to, say, the Boer Wars or WWII?
David Dunham: The early 20th Century has long fascinated me, so long in fact that I can’t recall what started the fascination. But it has been present most days in adulthood, particularly 1914 to 1918. It is impossible to comprehend these years, but it is possible to keep learning about them.
twogalsandabook: Was it difficult to write from a woman’s perspective?
David Dunham: Yes. My way into it was to think only from Rebecca’s perspective. Of course, I had to be respectful of the time and the many constraints in her life, but I wanted the perspective to be an emotional one, that both men and women can access.
twogalsandabook: Of all the rights unavailable to women at that time in history, what do you think Rebecca would have appreciated seeing changed the most?
David Dunham: I considered social commentary on the 1918 Representation of the People Act, that allowed women over the age of 30 to vote (still with conditions attached surrounding property), but it didn’t fit into the narrative timeline. Rebecca would have been angered by it, as the bill still discriminated against women (and it should be noted there had also been discrimination against millions of men as well before this), and had a scene presented itself, she would have probably got herself arrested in a protest.
twogalsandabook: What was the inspiration for including the current controversial topic of assisted suicide in the book?
David Dunham: Mmm … good question. It isn’t one that comes from personal experience, and I am, of course, conscious of the assisted suicide issue, particularly as it is growing in public awareness. For The Silent Land, I wished to show grief in different shades, and early on thought how terrible it would be for a doctor at that time to have to help his wife die because of the pain she was having to contend with.
twogalsandabook: I was angered and shocked by Edward’s behavior at the end of the book, even though I wasn’t truly surprised…. he seemed to display traits, even as a child, that hinted he could (at least one day), lean the way he did. What inspired you to make Edward capable of such things?
David Dunham: The downfall of Edward was an examination of how war can bring such darkness into a person’s life, and how the light of another, in this case, Rebecca’s love, is required to heal.
twogalsandabook: If The Silent Land were adapted into a movie or t.v. series, who would you like to see play the main characters?
David Dunham: Another good question. Rebecca would be played by Carey Mulligan. Emily by Kristin Scott Thomas. James by Colin Firth. Rupert by a young Eddie Redmayne, and Edward by Domhnall Gleeson
twogalsandabook: Are there any social media websites or platforms that readers could connect with you on?
David Dunham: I am more than approachable on https://twitter.com/ddunhamauthor or more at http://daviddunham.co.uk/
About the Author David Dunham
http://www.clairewingfield.co.uk/blog…David is the author of The Silent Land, a novel set in England between 1903 and 1919 that explores the complexities of love through the eyes of Rebecca, a young woman from the Fens.
When David is not working on his current novel, The Legend of Caradoc, he can be found daydreaming about the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire and taking his dogs for a stroll. He is fond of fountain pens, strong tea, good chutney and New Zealand, where he lives.