Pippa Eastman has an uneasy relationship with her authoritarian father and historian, Joseph. She escapes it by emigrating to Australia and forming there a pleasant but superficial partnership with Jude. The book’s theme is Pippa’s growing affection and respect for her father as she researches his past. The historic scenes of the Finnish-Russian Winter War of 1939-40 contrast with Pippa’s life in present-day Middle England, modern Finland, a visit to a slave camp in Germany, and Australia. Jude, too, is chasing the truth behind his father’s desertion and alcoholism, and their respective searches bring them closer together.
The Other Side of Silence is available from Amazon.com.
Here is an excerpt from The Other Side of Silence:
(After emigrating to Western Australia to escape her authoritarian father, Pippa Eastman returns some years later to look after him, now in advanced stages of dementia).
She had gone in the New Year of 2008, leaving Perth in temperatures in their upper 30sC and arriving at London Airport in a downpour of rain and sleet. At home, Aristotle had given her an ecstatic welcome. Father had expressed neither surprise nor pleasure at seeing her, immediately informing her that her mother had gone out and not come back. Pippa had made them both a cup of tea.
“Father, don’t you remember Mother died a long time ago. We had a nice service at the crematorium.”
He had looked at her, frowning, for a while then his face lit with comprehension. “That’s right, how could I forget?”
But he went on forgetting with only gradually diminishing frequency for several weeks.
They developed a kind of flexible routine. Klaudia came three times a week now and did most of the cooking, preparing extra portions for the freezer. Pippa started a yoga class in the next village and began to develop a series of private lessons which she did in other people’s homes. To begin with Father had spent a lot of time in what he called his studio, adapted from the garden shed. Gradually this decreased and he took to reading, initially in the downstairs study, then in bed. When Pippa looked at the writing he had left on his desk, it proved to be a series of jottings that made no sense. Aristotle mooched round the house, spending quite a lot of time curled up at the bottom of Father’s bed. He and the old man seemed to ignore each other as they always had, while creating a curious impression of companionship.
And then in the middle of one night, Pippa awoke to find her father stumbling about the landing clasping his chest. She called for an ambulance and he was admitted to hospital with a pulmonary embolism. He died two days later while she held his limp hand.
A few days after the funeral there was a strange call: a police inspector who wanted to speak to Professor Joseph Eastman. Pippa initially told them he was not at home, and, she agreed she was his daughter.
“Could you tell me when he might be returning home?”
“He won’t be returning home,” Pippa said. “He’s dead.” And to her own surprise she burst into tears.
An embarrassed police inspector apologised for disturbing her at such a time, and then tentatively asked whether she had any idea where he might have been in 1970.
“What’s all this about,” Pippa asked tartly, pulling herself together. The inspector murmured it was to do with a case that had been brought to their attention, but in view of the Professor’s demise she would not be bothered any more. Pippa found herself demanding what case?
“It was a very long time ago,” he said. “In Finland. I suspect this is the point when it becomes a cold case, in every sense of the word.”