A Small Dark Quiet

By Miranda Gold

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Is it possible to replace a life?

Publication date: December 2018
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About the book

"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

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