by Shusaku Endo
I'm not sure I have the words to describe this book, but I will try to dig some up. Raw, human, real, hardly begin to cover the depths of this short novel.
Silence is a work of historical fiction written from the perspective of Rodrigues, a young Jesuit priest who travels from his home in Portugal to Japan during the 17th century. Besides acting as a missionary, he also searches for his mentor, who is rumored to have apostatized in the face of persecution.
I would not call this a "gripping" tale--it did not suck me in--and yet at the same time, once started I couldn't abandon it. The story seemed flat, dull at times, because it lacks the sparkle of embellishment. Embellishment would detract from it. Silence is the story of a man, however fictional, who is not a hero but a common person. He has no special powers or strength, either physical or spiritual. His actions and feelings are real, though he is not, and we cannot help but wonder if we would have done the same things in his place.
There is a shocking twist at the end that left me feeling disappointed and unfulfilled, as if the book had climaxed to nothing. If this happens to you, do not dismiss the book as a failure. Ruminate on it for a while, letting pieces and the whole come back to you and start to fester in your soul. Go back and read the parts that bother you. Eventually, this unremarkable piece of literature will become naggingly significant, and you will realize that it couldn't have ended any other way.