Trying to be so Quiet by James Everington
Review by Gary Fry
This novelette opens with a man reflecting on a recent loss, with hints at ghostliness as early as the first page. It sets the tone for an acerbic rumination on the grieving process, how the death of a loved one can bleach life of all its structure and meaning.
Everington is very good at depicting such an emptied world, his language suitably lyrical and laden with apt metaphor. His central character, an everyman whose world has been savagely inverted, re-experiences varying aspects of his existence during a post-traumatic period.
His working life is full of irritations – the pointlessness of that urgent client report, all the treading-on-eggshells colleagues, and the new woman in the office reduced to her sexual characteristics. This jaundiced view of life is set against wistful reminiscences, of heady academic days when two young people met and just kind of drifted into a relationship, the ways these things tend to occur.
Indeed, it’s the tone of the whole work, a non-melodramatic stacking of lived detail, which renders it so hauntingly potent. The ghostly intruder takes its time to arrive, but by the time it does, it’s all the more potent for such a steady escalation of mood and atmosphere. Everington orchestrates his prose extremely well, and the piece’s conclusion is both touching and sour, a fitting summation of his character’s existential journey.
I really enjoyed this short, condensed novelette, which is packed full of bitterness and yearning, defeatism and aspiration. It’s what loss actually feels like, that wish to return to the past and to resent the future. The writing is pitch-perfect, and the overall impact resonant. Everington achieves an unusual ghost story here, and certainly a successful one. It’s a fine piece of work.