The Quiet Whispers Never Stop
Leontia Flynn’s poem ‘The Radio’, observes how since she sailed “to the Heart of Darkness that is motherhood/ her [Mother’s] mind’s been an assemblage of wounds.” In her debut novel The Quiet Whispers Never Stop, Olivia Fitzsimons exposes this ‘assemblage of wounds’ with searing candour.
Fitzsimons opens on the night that Nuala Malin leaves her husband, Patsy, and their children, Sam and PJ, a decision “as simple and as complicated as breathing. As life itself.” Here, Fitzsimons has exposed a fascinating divide in attitudes directed at men who quit families and the unthinkable and unnatural women who do the same. The novel traces the ricochet effects of Nuala’s absence and the ‘wounds’ of motherhood that are now inherited by her family, specifically her daughter Sam, whose pithy, blunt narration infuses the novel with a sharp humour and a highly original voice.
Each character is rendered with an almost claustrophobic closeness, particularly the enigmatic Naoise, to whom Sam is inexplicably drawn. Fitzsimons does not gloss over her Northern Irish setting either; rather she acknowledges the haunting grip still exerted by the Troubles: “Everyone suffers here. There’s a whole generation washed with trauma from the moment they’re born.”
This is not a ‘coming of age’ story, a love story, or a dissection of marriage; it’s all of these things at once, and somehow more nakedly raw than those genres, alone, could possibly capture.
Words: Holly Gash