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Radio 2 Book Club - The Silence Project

The next book to be featured on the Zoe Ball Radio 2 Book Club will be The Silence Project, the exciting and powerful debut novel by Carole Hailey. The book is released on 9 February and Carole’s interview with Zoe will be on BBC Sounds from Tuesday 14 February.

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The Silence Project

Monster. Martyr. Mother.

On Emilia Morris’s thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.

In the aftermath of what comes to be known as the Event, the Community’s global influence quickly grows. As a result, the whole world has an opinion about Rachel – whether they see her as a callous monster or a heroic martyr – but Emilia has never voiced hers publicly. Until now.

When she publishes her own account of her mother’s life in a memoir called The Silence Project, Emilia also decides to reveal just how sinister the Community has become. In the process, she steps out of Rachel’s shadow once and for all, so that her own voice may finally be heard.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved Pony – here are some of their comments:

“The Silence Project is exceptionally clever, remarkably planned, and perfectly executed. It’s like the best kind of pick and mix, where the more you delve the more delights you find.”

“This was a good read; the plot idea is original and well-developed. I enjoyed the writing style, almost journalistic as the author explains the story and motivations of the main character. The dystopian theme is cleverly done.”

“The premise of this novel is inventive and is presented as the memoir of Emilia Morris to accompany publication of the 29 notebooks written by her mother, Rachel Morris, an ordinary woman who runs a Hampshire village pub with her husband, until the day of Emilia’s thirteenth birthday when she moves out of their home and into a tent erected at the bottom of a neighbouring field. It is here she takes a vow of silence in order to listen to the world around her. Emilia never hears her mother’s voice again and eventually one woman’s retreat into silence attracts a growing number of followers and spreads globally. Lots of particularly challenging questions for a reader’s group to explore: the nature of cults and how a religion is made; individual responsibility; how organisations and governments devise policies which divide in order to accumulate wealth and power; how women, the elderly, the poor and those without an education are economically disadvantaged and lack agency. A disturbing and thought-provoking read.”

About the author

Carole Hailey completed the six-month Guardian/UEA novel writing course taught by Bernadine Evaristo, who imbued Carole with such a love for writing fiction that she abandoned her career in law to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, followed by a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University.

Carole was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020/21. The Silence Project is her first published novel and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrew First Novel Award 2020 and highly commended by the judges. She lives in Wales with her husband and two rescue dogs.

A word from Carole

“Where I grew up on Hayling Island the infant school backs onto the local library and I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t making regular visits there with my mum to borrow books. I loved going to the library and it was a hugely important place throughout my childhood, which makes the endorsement from The Reading Agency by choosing The Silence Project for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club incredibly special.

Although I always wanted to write novels, it took me many years to create the time and space in my life to do it. However, throughout two decades working as a lawyer and spending time living overseas, I always made time for reading. Reading was my first love and is my most enduring love. It is impossible for me to imagine what my life would be like without books. To know that I have written a novel that people want to read and recommend, a book that will be discussed on the radio and will find a place on the shelves of libraries, just like the one I spent so much time in for the first eighteen years of my life, fills me with gratitude, a certain amount of trepidation but above all, an enormous joy.”

Get involved

Tune in to the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show to hear the live feature on Tuesday 14 February. You can also listen to the full-length interview on BBC Sounds.

Have you read The Silence Project? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #R2BookClub and you can also follow Carole.

Planning to buy The Silence Project for your group? Buy books from Hive or from and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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