Three of a Kind - Troubled Families and Silent Children

This week on Book It I'll be reviewing Diane Chamberlain's 'Breaking the Silence.'  I found it particularly interesting that my picking up this book about a troubled family and a child whose response to emotional turbulence is elective mutism coincided with a very interesting discussion at academic romance blog 'Teach Me Tonight' about speech difficulties in popular fiction (which mentions, in passing, The King's Speech as part of this phenomenon).

Up until this point, I hadn't given a lot of thought to speech difficulties as a theme, but once it was mentioned, it seemed to crop up everywhere.

First I happened again across a book I'd read a few years ago, 'Overheard in a Dream' by Torey Hayden, the best-selling American author of a whole series of books on troubled children, including several elective mutes.  Although the novel was a compelling and moving story, it didn't quite seem to me to retain the power and simplicity of her non-fiction books, especially the superb 'One Child'.

Then I came across a third book along the same lines, also from Mira, who published 'Breaking the Silence'.  Like 'Breaking the Silence', 'The River House' by Margaret Leroy is also marketed with a 'moral dilemma' tagline, seemingly echoing the hugely successful taglines employed by Jodi Picault's publishers.  'Breaking the Silence' asks, 'Your husband commits suicide.  Your daughter won't speak.  Do you want to know the truth?'  'The River House' challenges, 'Would you reveal a secret that might solve a murder, but ruin your life?'

Interestingly, in 'The River House', the heroine is a therapist working with a mute child, but this turns out to be largely irrelevant to the central dilemma outlined on the cover, except to the extent that the theme of the whole story is the question of when to speak and when to remain silent - a question which is explored in different ways by all three authors.


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