Title: The Silence Between Breaths
Author: Cath Staincliffe
Published: September 27th 2016
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Rating: 3.5 stars
Eight people, one deadly secret.
Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.
Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .
The 10.35 train from Manchester to London, full of passengers making their journey from Manchester to the capital for a variety of reasons – work, family, holidays and new beginnings, is the centrepiece for The Silence Between Breaths. Aboard this train is an innocent mix of strangers, oblivious to the fact that their lives are about to be ripped apart by this standard train journey.
As various passengers and staff board the train in Manchester, setting off for London, each is consumed with their own thoughts. From job interviews, to problems with teenage children, relationship woes and career aspirations, these are common thoughts that occupy most people’s minds. The fact that their lives are going to be put in immediate danger, just by boarding this particular train, would not have crossed their mind. Also aboard the train is a teenage boy, Saheel, sweating profusely and hugging a rucksack. It is this rucksack, held by a teenage boy on a mission from above that is the deadly catalyst for a horrific event. The Silence Between Breaths is a novel divided into acts. Staincliffe sets the scene, introducing the reader to a set of passengers and staff aboard the train. She also explores a little of Saheel, the perpetrator of the crime and his thirteen year old sister’s perspective. This thirteen year old girl ends up being the unsung hero of the sad tale of events. There is a horrible sense of dread underpinning this book, as the reader knows what is coming up. The second act of the novel hones down on the aftermath of the train attack. This allows Staincliffe the room to explore such issues as surviour’s guilt, grief and the physical injuries experienced by those who lived to see life after the train disaster.
Phew, this book was both a hard one to read and review. A couple of weeks have passed by since I finished reading The Silence Between Breaths. It is a book that I needed some time to digest and settle, before I felt like I was in the right frame of mind to write a review. The Silence Between Breaths is a timely and topical novel, shining the spotlight on modern terrorism. I believe it is a book that offers the reader a very real reflection of a devastating event that unfortunately seems to be occurring on a frequent basis, all around the world.
I would say The Silence Between Breaths is a book that fits into the crime genre but it is also a very good piece of dramatic fiction, offering up a study of humour behaviour. It takes an insightful glimpse into how a wide cross section of people would respond to a tragedy. With the attack mentioned in the blurb, the reader knows what is going to happen, just not the exact details about how it will unfold. A sense of pure dread fell over me as I read the first half of the novel. It was not a welcome feeling at all, but I know this event building was essential to the story. Once the attack occurred, the book seemed to step up a notch pace wise. Staincliffe successfully captures the frantic nature based on the fight for survival and the rescue process of the passengers. The immediate aftermath of the attack is a sensory overload. Staincliffe uses many passages to describe the horrific sights, distinct smells, the noise and the raw emotions attached to such an event. It was moving but it was difficult to read at times. The aftermath of the attack is strong in characterisation. Through the alternating chapter style, the reader learns about the emotional rehabilitation process for the different victims of the disaster. This gives Staincliffe the opportunity to explore issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, disability, bereavement and survivor’s guilt. Each of these issues is handled in a sensitive manner by the author.
The Silence Between Breaths is a stark but tense read that holds you tightly in its grip. It is the type of novel that leaves a stain on your mind, long after closing the book. The Silence Between Breaths is a story lead by a cast of believable characters, who draw the reader deep into the unfolding events of this terrible attack on British soil. The Silence Between the Breaths was my introduction to the writing of Cath Staincliffe, an author with many novels under her belt, which I hope to now explore after reading this profound novel.