A History of Silence feels like a novel – Lloyd Jones is a famous NZ novelist after all – but it’s not fiction. This memoir was written after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, as the shock and trauma of it prompted him to dig into his family’s history. He pieces together what little he knows from family lore, a challenge as his family was prone to the classic bottling up of feelings and concerns, and ends up learning possibly more than he wants about his parents’ and grandparents’ lives.
We writes with the flow of a novel, and while there’s some very funny and odd bits, it’s generally a quietly sad memoir – the discomfort of unearthing real pain and rootlessness, and dealing with death and aging. His deliberations with the undertaker, while befuddled with grief, over his recently-passed mother’s body hit me the hardest and genuinely brought me to tears.