February 2016 Club

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

“Chilling thriller” is the description of this book that has been bandied around and that’s exactly what it is – a thriller set in the frozen Polar north.

Originally from London, Yasmin (who happens to be a knitting guerrilla astrophysicist with model looks) and her 10-year-old daughter Ruby (who is very bright, intrigued by the natural world and happens to be deaf) land at Fairbanks Airport in Alaska only to be told that Yasmin’s husband, Matt, is dead.

But Ruby doesn’t know – she didn’t hear the policeman passing on the information. Matt was a wildlife photographer and had been staying at an Inupiaq village north of the Arctic Circle. There was a devastating fire in the village and everyone was killed. Matt’s wedding band was found in the debris.

Yasmin refuses to believe that her husband is dead and despite an impending storm, convinces a truck driver to take her north. After the driver becomes ill, in a determined streak of stubbornness, she commandeers the enormous vehicle and takes on the notorious ice road, the Dalton Highway, herself and brings her daughter along on this dangerous journey. Temperatures plummet to minus 55 Fahrenheit and there’s a sinister truck with blue headlights which seems to be following them through the endless darkness and life-threatening storm.

She learns quickly to announce her position to other ice road truckers on the CB radio. And although the radio saves her life in many situations - with advice from a friendly trucker on how to put on snow chains, chip ice off the wheels and how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning – it also alerts her pursuer to her exact location.

Then mysterious photographs of dead wildlife in the snow begin to appear in Ruby’s inbox.

Will Yasmin and Ruby survive? Is Matt dead? Who is the menacing pursuer? What do the stomach-churning photographs with the mysterious number references mean?

I think what gives this novel just an edge above other thrillers is the author’s description of the stars and how we fit in to the universe, of the amazing wildlife and how snowshoe hares, ptarmigans and arctic foxes are all able to survive where we struggle and of how she conveys what it’s like to be deaf and ties it in with the environment. The development of the mother-daughter relationship is also touching, and although Ruby’s narrative laced with “super-coolios” and “awesome sauces” is somewhat annoying, it’s an extremely accurate portrayal of how some of the 10-year-olds I know actually talk.

Colourway inspiration

This was one of the trickiest club yarns I’ve had to dye, with the environment being described as “one-dimensional whiteness” and as “just dark everywhere you look. Black black black.” There was the odd flash of orange, blue and yellow here and there, but in the end it was the Tweedore yarn that inspired me to dye the semi-solid darkest grey – the neps in the yarn reminded me of little bits of tree or rock that you might be able to just make out in a barren landscape in the darkness. I called it Dark Hinterland.

For the variegated yarn, it was inspired by the Aurora Borealis witnessed by Ruby and Yasmin. Although by this time, Ruby despises the lights as they remind her of the ball at the end of Sleeping Beauty when the fairies turn her ballgown from blue to pink and back again and is unable to see how beauty can exist in a landscape in which such cruelty has taken place. The northern lights signify the loss of her innocence.