Reviewed by Rod McLary
Leah is twenty-eight and for the past twenty years – since a childhood accident at age eight – she has suffered from akinestopsia. This is a rare condition affecting the brain and consequently sufferers are unable to detect motion even though they can see perfectly well. Moving objects appear much as a series of stop-frame images in a film reel.
With this distressing condition as a starting point, Armando Lucas Correa has crafted a psychological thriller with sufficient tension to demand the reader’s attention right to the very end – and its unexpected denouement.
Leah lives alone in a large apartment in Upper Manhattan and has done so since her parents died – her father by suicide and her mother from cancer. To compensate for her inability to detect motion, Leah has developed a heightened sensitivity for sounds and smells. She is able to hear conversations conducted by other residents in her apartment complex, people walking through their apartments, and sounds from the street outside.
Leah has little social contact apart from with her housekeeper and an elderly neighbour – and with Mark who works part-time at a local bookstore which Leah frequents. She refers to Mark as ‘my Mark’ but only to herself. Her life is solitary and peaceful until a new neighbour moves in to the apartment next door. Alice is beautiful and kind but Leah can sense waves of anxiety coming from her as she speaks of her abusive and alcoholic ex-husband.
Told in the first person by Leah, the narrative reflects the claustrophobic world which she inhabits with all its invasive sounds and smells bombarding her senses – a world with which Leah is only marginally engaged. Until, that is, she hears pleas for help coming from Alice’s apartment; Leah’s willingness to help draws her into a complex and dangerous game for which she is unprepared. There are moments where her inability to fully interpret what is happening around her becomes terrifying for both Leah and the reader as she struggles to make sense of what is taking place.
And like a motif, the smell of bergamot runs through the novel as a focus for Leah’s fear. She believes – at least initially – that it ‘belongs’ to the abusive husband but is that really the case? And if not, to whom does it ‘belong’? She smells it everywhere and when she finally discovers its ‘owner’, she dismisses her fears – quite wrongly as it turns out.
With perhaps a nod to Gaslight – the George Cukor film in which Ingrid Bergman is slowly drawn by her manipulative husband into believing she is insane – The Silence in Her Eyes charts a similar course where Leah is being played by those whom she believed had her best interests at heart. As Leah says to herself – I feel the sudden shock of being completely alone in the world with no one to trust, not even myself or my own senses .
The Silence in Her Eyes is an imaginative and psychologically thrilling novel. The reader will empathise with Leah as her world which up to now had been secure and safe is gradually dismantled around her as she struggles to make sense of the social dynamics between those close to her. The author has crafted a novel with an ending which will bring readers to a reconsideration of everything which passed before.
Well recommended to all those who enjoy psychological thrillers.
Armando Lucas Correa is the author of The German Girl – which has sold more than one million copies – and The Daughter’s Tale and The Night Travellers.
The Silence in Her Eyes
by Armando Lucas Correa
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 176142 442 2