Is it possible to replace a life?
"Bold, challenging and beautifully written. An imaginative exploration of trauma which has all the power of the darkest fairy tales.” Alice Jolly, author of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns and Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, winner of the Pen/Ackerley award 2016 and the V.S. Prichett award 2014
“A Small Dark Quiet is a powerful exploration of trauma and the need to belong. The experience of reading Miranda Gold's latest novel resembles that of listening to a symphony. With harmonies and dissonances, with thematic variations and repetitions she sweeps the reader off their feet, takes us on a journey of post-war soul searching and eventually releases us back into every day life slightly changed." – Meike Ziervogel, author of Guardian Not The Booker Prize shortlisted 2013 novel, MAGDA and founder of Peirene Press
"A thoughtful and moving novel about the legacy of grief that approaches wartime narrative from a fresh angle. Thoroughly absorbing and eminently readable." Scott Pack, author of Weighted Fireworks and former publisher at The Friday Project
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 spacethat 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.
Praise for Starlings
"An intense and evocative journey through the mind of a troubled young woman haunted by her family history."Jackie Law
"Starlings is a challenging novel. It is intense and sometimes seems almost something of a battle. It is, however, a beautifully written battle, with poetic prose that is expertly paced."Anne Cater
“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.” Sue Gaisford, The Tablet
People would come to speak of two Londons: one gutted and one singing. Sylvie had found herself in each, straddled them, yet she struggled now to recall either. Dimly aware of the bodies trapped under rubble and talking to a woman, holding her hand until the stretcher came; of the jitterbug that had danced round her one night – yes, the ladies in the shelter had taught her, packed in as they were, and drafted her into their world. A gentleman had warned them not to excite a lady in her condition. The ladies’ cheeks had pinched, laughter held in check until the gentleman’s back was turned. Sylvie couldn’t resist mimicking him, to hell if he heard, she’d said as the ladies covered their mouths and snuck glances in his direction, the ageless glee of midsummer fairies `ushing their faces. Oh you should be an actress, one said. No chance of that now, another said, her eyes, mellowing, on Sylvie’s belly – she had squeezed her hand then, holding it for a moment longer, pressing warmth into her palm as though it might be something Sylvie could carry with her.
But then, from Harry’s birth to Arthur’s death the arc of life was crossed at once. Empty cradle had been twinned with empty grave and took all sense from the body she’d have to live in, from the city she was meant to call home.
The last all clear wouldn’t sound for another week and, while infant heads and hands and feet were blown from tiny bodies rendered nameless, Sylvie forged a tiny corpse of her own. Binding sticks and twigs, lined with moss and stu^ed with stones, she wove her Arthur into deathless life and laid him in the ground, piling the warmth of the earth over him, planting him in a second womb. We’ll visit, she promised, every Thursday.
Wednesday, 22 May 2019
I wanted to share a few of the lovely moments A Small Dark Quiet has enjoyed this spring and let you know about upcoming events.
It was wonderful to hear that A Small Dark Quiet was included in Jewish Book Week’s list of ‘Great Jewish Books’ and to find such an insightful review by Caroline Moorehead in The TLS. Here’s a snippet from the review and the link in case…
A Small Dark Quiet - the conversation begins!
Sunday, 3 February 2019
A Small Dark Quiet has been out in the world for two months and it’s been wonderful to explore themes at the heart of the novel with such curious, engaged audiences at events. Having the chance to collaborate with fellow unboundersmiths for some of these has opened up the conversation in unexpected ways, drawing out some surprising affinities and allowing stories that might be…
Launch Party for A Small Dark Quiet
Saturday, 3 November 2018
Hello lovely supporters,
I would be delighted if you could join me to celebrate the launch of A Small Dark Quiet on Tuesday, 27th November from 6.30pm at Waterstones Gower Street. RSVP is through the eventbrite link below - it would be wonderful to see you there! Come and raise a glass to the book you've brought to life!
Sunday, 21 October 2018
We are almost there! The edits are complete, the cover design has been drafted, redtrafted, tweaked and finalised and in just a few days A Small Dark Quiet will be sent to press... The supporters list is closing tonight at midnight so now is the last chance to encourage others to pledge or to pledge for someone else a gift.
Here's a sneak preview of the cover - I can't wait…
What a beautiful way to begin...
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
The novel is just six weeks from making its way into the world and the brilliant team at Unbound are casting a discerning eye over the final stages of production: the edits are almost complete, corrected proofs are on their way and the art director is creating the first visuals for the cover design...it's coming together, it's taking shape and none of this would be happening without…
The Editorial Eye
Monday, 9 July 2018
The editoiral eye can be a gift to a writer. Having been immersed in the world of ‘A Small Dark Quiet’ for over three years, moving between living alongside the characters and looking through their eyes, I was really looking forward to a fresh perspective. What I always find so extraordinary is how creative the editing process can be – sometimes even more so than the early…
Bringing a book to life
Thursday, 8 March 2018
Hello fabulous supporters!
You've done it! Yes, thanks to your support A Small Dark Quiet has now reached its funding target and will make its way into the world. It's only because of you - and brave, brilliant Unbound - for believing in this novel that its characters can come to life.
The exploration of loss, migration and the search for belonging has long preocupied my writing but never more…
Words as Music
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Happy new year!
The relationship between music and literature is something I've wanted to explore since my first attempts to build worlds out of words. I've always been able to sense its influence on my writing and recognised it retrospectively - but precisely how and why has always eluded me. Writers are always pushing against the limits of language - compressing, stretching, layering meaning…
Reading as Alchemy
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
While the world and its mistress goes on the annual hunt for french hens and turtle doves I wanted to thank you all for your generousity and support. This couldn't happen without you - and it is happening...we're now 89% funded! Please do keep the conversation going and spread the word if you can. As you'll find out, Arthur's feelings about the most wonderful time of the year aren't exactly unambivalent…
For the curious
Sunday, 22 October 2017
Hello lovely supporters, thanks to you the novel is 79% funded!
I wanted to share another extract in case any of you are keen to read a little more. Anne Cater kindly gave Arthur and Company a home on her excellent blog last week - here's the link, I hope you enjoy it.
If you're curious to know more about the process of writing 'A Small Dark Quiet', the ways in which its themes are connected…
What a gift to start the new year!
Thursday, 21 September 2017
A very warm welcome to those who have pledged since last update, it's wonderful to have your support. The novel is now 67% funded and it's thanks to you that it's getting closer to making its way into the world and into readers' hands.
I was very touched by Meike Ziervogel's response to 'A Small Dark Quiet', truly a gift to start the new year, which I'm delighted to share with you. Meike is the…
By then, summer, it's been...English
Tuesday, 5 September 2017
I’m always tempted to hibernate once the days start getting shorter – let me curl up and read and write till spring. Not quite time for that though, autumn is going to be full of exciting plans to fund ‘A Small Dark Quiet’ and to get the novel that little bit closer to being in your hands. First off is an event I’m doing with my fellow Unboundersmith, Caitlin Davies. Having spent twelve years in…
Saturday, 19 August 2017
A heartfelt thanks to you all. August is a sleepy month but the support for 'A Small Dark Quiet' has been atonishing. It might be a bit premature to start making T-shirts but to see 'A Small Dark Quiet' 52% funded is less than four weeks is fantastic (I do, however, endorse all t-shirt making activity.)
Since you can't meet the characters in 'A Small Dark Quiet' just yet, I thought I'd tell you…
Saturday, 5 August 2017
A stunned and grateful thank you to everyone who has pledged so far - in just 10 days the book is 35% funded. Let's hope we can keep the momentum going so that you can meet the characters who've been keeping me up at night for the past three years. They've been wonderful company, sometimes maddening but always fascinating - I'm already missing them but I can't wait for them to come to life again through…
These people are helping to fund A Small Dark Quiet.