The Silence between Breaths Cath Staincliff

519B62+UzmL._AC_US160_Pub: Little Brown Book Group


Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. Onboard customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . .

Whatever the cover of this book makes you think you are going to read… Forget it.

Cath Staincliffs highly topical and altogether emotive tale is probably THE most relevant read of the year.

I was shaken by this tale, the description of the characters made them friends, their lives, their politics and their bonds, brought to life in the most graphic of ways made them real.

All with different reasons for traveling that day, a job interview, a wedding and for one, just to get away for a few hours, the passengers on the train to Euston were in for a life changing experience. On board is Saheel, a clever but highly radicalised and tortured human being, he has a ruck sack with a bomb and the devastating consequences of his plans will bring true the horrors of what is true of today’s society and the world we live in.

Will this book change views of what we think of Muslims and their thoughts on the Western world and how we live, No.. but what it does is show us as a reader, the various sides of each individual person Staincliff has characterised.

There is Nick, quite clearly a racist, Meg and Diana, partners in life, planning a walking holiday, Caroline, a fraught middle aged woman with her own family and a mother with aging difficulties. The bitchy working women, trying to fight their way  to the top, Naz, a man with a menial job and big dreams and then there is Jeff, who in my opinion is the hero of the story. He has his own struggles and we see him and his friendship with Holly blossom. And then there is Boss.

It also tells Kulsooms story, a thirteen year old girl and the sister of Saheel. Her story is poignant and shows a side of terrorism that is usually not told.

This tale will live with me for a long time. It is one that I will re-read and recommend.

It is extremely well written, it is quite obviously deeply researched, but what it is not, is a personal  venting of opinion of the author. It shows a two-sided tale of terrorist and victim and all of those caught in the cross-fire.





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