The Silence Project by Carole Hailey is a fictional memoir written by the daughter of a woman who is believed to be the saviour of humanity by many, and a mass murderer by everyone else.
I came up with the idea for the novel during the UK’s toxic Brexit campaign while, in America, Donald Trump perfected the ability to ignore any view that didn’t match his own.
It increasingly began to feel as though everyone everywhere was shouting and absolutely no-one was listening. Somewhere among my obsessive scrolling of news sites and Twitter feeds, I had the idea of writing about a woman who is so distressed by all the shouting that she is prepared to do whatever it takes to persuade people to listen to each other again.
Out of this the character of Rachel was born – someone who chooses to be silent in order to truly hear what others are saying. It’s an intoxicating idea when conversations today can feel overwhelmingly shouty and polarised and I felt sure others would join her.
But, of course, even with the best of intentions protests are never that straightforward. In exploring the idea of a community led by Rachel, I wondered if her ideology would make her as fanatical as the people she’s protesting about? And if so, what would she be prepared to do to get her point across? Who would she be happy to hurt?
By writing The Silence Project as a fictional memoir written by Rachel’s daughter, a young woman trying to come to terms with the legacy of her mother’s actions, the novel is rooted in the real world, exploring how benign movements can become malignant cults and how, in trying to heal the problems of the world, we might just unleash something far more terrifying.
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