Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin’s future—like that of every young woman—hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle’s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime—and no one believes her.
Gregory denies all, and Isabelle’s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband’s assassination.
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel’s debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.
House of Silence is an enjoyable read with an interesting plot. While reading this story my thoughts often strayed to the question: How does silence expose the truth? The answer is in the plot, however I think you would have to be truly mad to have yourself committed to a sanitarium.
The sad theme behind this story is betrayal, by the people you love and trust. Isabelle finds an unusual ally in Mrs Lincoln, hoping the older women can help her. The question is: to speak or not to speak?
Not overly complex, House of Silence is an easy read that pulls you in. If you like historical fiction put this one on your to be read pile.