A tenderly humorous account of two square pegs, trying to worm their way into the round hole we call ‘life’. British eccentricity at its best.
What the back cover says
35-year-old Miriam hasn’t left her house in three years, and cannot raise her voice above a whisper. But today she has had enough, and is finally ready to rejoin the outside world. Maybe it’s time to stop living in the shadow of her abusive dead mother?
Meanwhile, timid psychotherapist Ralph has made the mistake of opening a closet door, only to discover that his wife Sadie doesn’t love him. Yet everyone else seems to have known all about their unhappy marriage – from her tweets. He decides to run away. But where can he go?
Each of them is hungry to make sense of the chaos in their lives. Miriam and Ralph’s chance meeting in a local wood marks the beginning of a quirky and mutually supportive friendship. With Ralph’s gentle help, Miriam begins to piece together her own truth. Because sometimes, the world can seem too much for just one person . .
What I say
In the days after finishing Whispers Through a Megaphone, I watched an episode of Grand Designs.
For this particular building project, the ever-urbane Kevin McCloud had the misfortune of introducing us a slightly unhinged London shopkeeper who decided to build a full-scale replica of a West Virginian watermill after seeing an illustration of it on a yoghurt pot.
Yep. A yoghurt pot. Maple flavour, to be exact.
Needless to say, the shopkeeper spent two years battling neighbours, council, and the natural environment (no running water and a hill steeper than Everest) and still hadn’t finished building.
Yet, at the end of it, Kevin triumphantly declared the whole, crazy project to be an architectural necessity. A folly, and a sacrifice made for the sake of the greater common good – ‘true British eccentricity at its best’.
I’m not sure the neighbours agree, but it reminded of how wonderfully well the Brits ‘do’ eccentricity. And this is what lies at the heart of Whispers.
We meet Ralph, the psychotherapist wanting to withdraw from the world, and Miriam, the recluse wanting to re-enter it, on the verge of major life changes, which is always the best time to meet characters in book.
Yes – they are a bit odd. But their oddity only serves to provide a brilliant platform for author Rachel Elliott to write with humour and compassion. You can sense she really feels for these square pegs, trying desperately to worm their way into round holes.
Actually, everyone in this book has a slightly tenuous grip on sanity (and some have no grip at all) which, in a way is not surprising given the pace at which we live it, and the way in which we’ve allowed technology to take over our lives. On these issues, and on the subjects of grief and love, Elliott has much to say, and she delivers the message in witty and fresh prose.
In Whispers, everyone’s a bit bonkers. They really need to build houses so Kevin McCloud can come and praise them for their nuttiness.
But he has a point. How boring would life be without a bit of bonkers in it?
For more information, or to buy the book, visit Penguin Australia