Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 21 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on January 28th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-stars

Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist’s obsession. Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.

I think I might be an outlier on my feelings about this book. While I appreciate the structure and style of this novel I have a thing about gimmicks. The gimmick here is that journalist “Jesse Ball” is obsessed with the “true story” of Oda Sotatsu. So I’m irritated right off the bat – what’s true? What’s imagined? Is this historical fiction or straight up fiction? 

That being said, the writing is quite lovely in this novel and the structure is unique. Told (mostly) in a series of interviews with people connected with Sotatsu, it felt a little like Solomon the Peacemaker (which you almost definitely have not read, but totally should). Outside the gimmick the story itself is compelling enough until you get to the end. Here I’m going to put a big fat…




Kind of Spoiler Alert
 
I’m sorry kids, but the ending was flat out lifted from that awful Kevin Spacey movie The Life of David Gale, or maybe David Gale‘s ending was lifted from the maybe real-life occurrences outlined in Ball’s novel – either way – all I could think of was that movie. Unfortunately the motivation and execution of the characters in the movie were a lot more plausible than that of those in Ball’s novel. 
 
Done Possibly Ruining Your Reading Experience
 
 
 
 
 
As far as the Tournament goes, this is pitted against Redeployment in the first round – which is interesting because Redeployment reads as stories that should be true (and probably are in spirit) while Silence Once Begun is claimed to be a true story (maybe it somewhat is, I haven’t researched it) as sort of a gimmick, but otherwise fails to really reflect reality. What’s interesting about the two novels is that they are both protest literature of sorts. Obviously I’m rooting for Redeployment and I feel like it will probably win the first round over this – but you never know what those crazy judges are going to do. 
 
Have you read this one, Reader? Do you know what I mean by ‘protest literature’? Do you have any examples? 
 
 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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