Walls of silence
Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women's centre in the UK.
5 star reviews for Walls of Silence:
“The wonderfully written characters and the world in which they find themselves in, Italy in the sixties is captivating and superbly done.”
“A very powerful novel that is filled with abuse, strength, sadness and love.”
“A well written book, it was difficult for me to put it down.”
“This is a story which leaves you thinking at the end. Well done.”
Best Book Bit:
“It must have been difficult for you to move up north,” said one elderly lady. “I mean, everything’s so different here, the language, the culture, everything.” The others laughed.
“Well, I don’t understand the dialect yet but I’m sure I’ll pick it up,” I replied. “After all, you wouldn’t be able to understand Sicilian, would you?”
“I can hardly understand you when you speak Italian, let alone Sicilian!” a young girl exclaimed. “You have such a peculiar accent.”
“I don’t have problems with the culture, though,” I said defensively, starting to be irritated. “After all, we’re all Italians.”
“Yes, but you’ve been isolated on that island for so long, dear,” said another of Simona’s friends. “You come from the country, whereas this is a modern, metropolitan city… you really can’t expect to be as sophisticated as us, can you?”
“I heard that southerners don’t even know what a bidet is for,” one girl sneered.
I felt grateful that our landlady had explained it to me. “It’s for washing,” I said smugly.
The girl looked surprised, then grinned. “For washing what?” she asked. The room fell silent.
“Clothes, of course,” I replied, a little confused.
The howls of laughter echoed around the apartment. Cheeks burning, I ran from the house, across the hall to my own apartment. I locked the door and threw myself down on the bed, crying bitterly. I heard them all leave later, still laughing raucously as they got into the lift. Soon after there was a knock at the door and the doorbell rang. I sat on the bed, hugging my knees to my chest.
“Maria, it’s Simona.” There was a pause. “I don’t blame you for not speaking to me, my friends can go over the top sometimes. I’m here if you want to pop over tomorrow.”
I waited for the apology but it never came. Needless to say, I rarely left the apartment after that, unless I was with Vinny.
Vinny chose that night to come home late, drunk as usual. I left him to eat alone in the kitchen and went and sat on the edge of the bed. For the hundredth time I wished we had space for an armchair, somewhere other than the bed to sit down on.
He soon finished his meal and joined me. “Had a good day?” he asked, slurring his words.
I shook my head.
“Good, neither have I,” he snapped and grabbed hold of my arm.
I wasn’t in the mood for any of his games. “Don’t,” I said. Something in my voice must have penetrated the hazy fog of alcohol in his brain, and he let go of me.
“Wha’s wrong?” He sounded confused.
“I feel like an alien from planet Mars,” I replied, wondering if he was too drunk to understand.
He wasn’t. “Did that Simona say somethin’?”
“Not her, she’s nice. Her friends. They made fun of my accent, told me I wasn’t sophisticated, that I was a country bump-bumpkin…” I couldn’t speak any more as I burst into tears.
“That’s nothin’ to what I get every day,” Vinny muttered. I stopped crying and listened, incredulous, as he told me how he and the other southern migrants were treated at the factory. I finally understood why he got so drunk, how the pressure built up until he had to find a way to release it. That I understood but I wished he didn’t have to take it out on me.
“You know what makes it worse, Mari?” he asked, staring at me with bloodshot eyes. “I could put up with the insults, being treated like an idiot, being shouted at by northern bastards who haven’t done a day’s hard graft in their lives but get paid three times more than me. All this, and more, I could put up with in order to put food on the table, if I just had a normal wife to come home to.”
“B-b-but…” I stammered.
“A wife who kissed me passionately, who touched me willingly, who willingly let me touch her and found pleasure in it.” His words echoed around the apartment. “I have given you everything I have,” he cried, “but when I touch you…” He leant towards me and I instinctively shrank away from him. “You respond with all the passion of a dead fish,” he finished simply.
It was my fault. The reason he drank, the reason he beat me, the reason he used my body so brutally. It was all my fault. I bowed my head in shame.
Ribbon Reviews for this title:
(These are similar to our Bookworm reviews, but they are
not submitted by our in-house reviewers. Each Ribbon Review corresponds to the matching color of our Bookworm reviews.)
This book transfers you into a world where no one should ever experience. It was well written and could be hard for others to read. I felt Helen did a great job at describing situations with subtle detail. It was just enough that you understood the disturbing, horrifying life Maria endured. It was heartbreaking and made me angry for the way Maria was treated. I wanted to jump into the story and save her myself. She was a strong woman and somehow found a way out.
Even though the timing of this book was in the 1960’s these things still happen. I will definitely read more of Helen’s books.
Submitted by Kristina Beck
Maria was such a well-developed character that I could picture her perfectly in my mind, feel her joy and pain, and even fear for her safety, even though I had to keep reminding myself that she's a fictional character.
My mind and my heart simply couldn't fathom such evil and brutality against a human, especially a gentle-hearted child, as was Maria when her horrific life began. Due to the death of her mother, and her innocence at the hands of a monster, Maria was forced to grow up far too early in life, and even becoming a mother figure to her younger sister.
This idea is clearly evident in Chapter Six:
I would see Salvo looking at her occasionally and I was determined he wouldn’t touch her. But I wanted to protect her innocence, so instead of warning her of what could happen I showered her with all the affection I still had inside me, hoping that it would be enough to keep her from harm.
It was heartbreaking enough to read about Maria concerning herself with the basic care of her sister, Guisy--feeding, bathing, etc.—but for a child this young to feel obligated to protect an even younger child from a grown man’s intentions, an oblivious father, not to mention an ignorant society in general, was downright unacceptable.
As the author so eloquently stated it:
Childhood memories are like a butterfly resting on a flower. At the exact moment when you think you’re close enough to touch one, it flutters away on trembling wings, tantalizingly out of reach.
The worst part was that this poor little girl’s misery wasn’t over when she finally became (somewhat) of a woman. Every time she thought she’d found the courage and strength to open her heart to love again, another man would enter her life and treat her like garbage, distorting her self-worth and dragging her into his despicable world.
One of my favorite lines that summed up Maria’s courage, spoken by her ultimate true love, Pietro:
That was her way of coping with the past: she only lived in the present.
There are a few graphic scenes that were hard to read, but they were necessary to portray the unfathomable truth of Maria’s life.
I commend this author for having the courage to write such an important and compelling story, and I pray she didn’t have to suffer all the horrific events that Maria did. She even donates a portion of the sales of this book to helping abused women.
This is a story that every man, woman, and even teens of dating age need to read, because it’s the unfortunate reality for many innocent women, men, and children in the world who need to be heard and helped.
Based in Italy in the 60s, it approaches the taboo subject of sexual abuse. The story of Maria broke my heart and because it triggered some unwanted feelings, I almost tossed it away. But I'm glad I kept reading, as it showed me how Maria persevered and how the human spirit can conquer fear, and succeed, despite being beaten down to a low that many only hear about. I loved how author Pryke pulled everything together at the end sharing that we must keep talking about this subject, be a supportive network, and most importantly, help change women's attitudes towards themselves.
The author is also donating a portion of this book's proceeds to a woman's center. Kudos for her continued compassion about the abuse of women in Italy and around the world.