BEHIND THE BRICKS IN THE WALL Walls of Silence is the novel that wouldn’t let me alone. I returned to it time and again over a period of twelve years, each revisit seeing me bolder and more experimental as my skills and confidence grew. After a mercifully brief flirtation with calling it The Hand-turned Dobby, I hijacked the title Walls of Silence from a novel I’d written early on in my apprenticeship about a motorcycle stunt show in a travelling fair.
A novel to grow into My themes of madness, social isolation, shell-shock, and repression have been consistent throughout the book’s long gestation but I wasn’t a good enough writer in the early days to handle such weighty material; I lacked the skill to construct a plot suitable for exploring the psychological makeup of a damaged mind. It was a murder mystery of sorts when Val McDermid read the first line (I wrote the opening paragraph whilst on an Arvon Crime Writing course) but now I think of it as a psychosocial* novel in which the violence perpetrated is as much institutional as it is vengeful.
As the wall of death drome and fairgrounds of the original story disappeared on the horizon, I set about changing my research focus. The file on shell-shock in The Great War expanded to include the attempts at treatment and the dawning realisation that the condition could be long-term. New files grew fat on topics such as lunatic asylums, the assessment of mental health and psychiatric disorders in the 1920s, and what fate awaited the poor souls who could not be rehabilitated.
What constitutes identity? For all its historical setting, Walls of Silence is a book exploring a very current reality. Because here’s the thing: every time we succumb to posting a lie or an exaggeration about ourselves on social media, we fudge ourselves a little. Blur the edges. Alter reality. But what if that false you ended up becoming you? How would you ever realise you had morphed into a construct of your own imagination?
Everyone has multiple facets to their personality and we all have a handful we rely on to smooth our transition from one life role to another. If you doubt this applies to you then consider whether you wear the same clothes, talk about the same things, act in the same way, tell the same jokes . . . when you are with your work colleagues / family / old school mates / new boss / friends’ children / strangers / a hated rival / lifelong heroes / love of your life.
Fracturing reality We take good care over how we present ourselves to the world but this activity presupposes a central sense of self that we can radiate out from, and return to. Without that we are just an illusion, a tissue of fabrication. And, if that were the case, what would we have to cling onto once the inevitable happened and that false reality began to disintegrate?
At its heart, Walls of Silence is an account of the power struggle between a woman’s conscious and unconscious mind as each takes sides in a battle to conceal a devastating secret. There is, needless to say, no winner left standing when the sands of truth begin to shift.
* psychosocial: of or involving the influence of social factors or human interactive behaviour. OED
You can find Ruth on Twitter @RuthWadewriter or under her other authorial persona @BKDuncanwriter. Both hang out at ruthwade.com
WALLS OF SILENCE is published by Bloodhound Books.
Amazon links for Walls of Silence: Amazon USA