Title: After the Silence
Author: Louise O’Neill
Publisher: Riverrun, Quercus
Publication Date: 3rd September 2020
On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.
The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but on-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.
Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.
I’ve read a couple of Louise O’Neill’s books before and they were fantastic so I was really excited to read her first foray into the world of adult thrillers! I can confirm that After the Silence did not disappoint at all – it is an impressive and nuanced read with themes that are relevant and gripping. The story follows the making of a documentary investigating the death of a young woman on the isolated Irish island of Inisrun. The narrative is split mostly between the documentary process and the impact it has on the islanders and the events of ten years ago when Nessa Crowley lost her life in suspicious circumstances.
After the Silence is not a short book but it is the sort of book that consumes the reader completely which makes it very difficult to put down. The characters are flawed yet compelling and the relationships between them are complex and feel incredibly authentic. Something I think After the Silence does phenomenally well is it’s portrayal of domestic abuse. It shows the trauma of physical abuse with heartbreaking realism but it also demonstrates how important it is to remember and acknowledge that abuse within relationships does not have to be physical to be intensely damaging and dangerous. The horrific impact of coercive control and gaslighting is thrown into stark relief in this often harrowing read. O’Neill is immensely talented at writing about gender stereotypes, double standards and the way women are treated and spoken about in society. She doesn’t hold back at all and cuts right to the core of these timely themes in an intelligent and incisive manner.
The island of Inisrun and the customs of the community that lives there is brought to life perfectly in the mind of the reader. I loved the use of the Irish language throughout, it gives the book a really gorgeous tone and adds a lyrical quality to the prose which I loved. The setting is crucial to the story and plays a large part in making After the Silence such an engrossing read. You can disappear into this story and get lost in the dark and complicated lives of these characters. If you like your thrillers with a sharp, thought-provoking and uncompromisingly honest edge then I think you will enjoy this book. Highly recommend!
I received a gifted copy of the book from Riverrun, Quercus as part of the Tandem Collective UK readalong. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.