Cover Image: When We Were Silent

When We Were Silent

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Member Reviews

Brilliant book - be prepared to be immersed in this powerfully written story
Love to hate characters,realistic and so well written
Hard to put down once started

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** I highly recommend this gripping thriller; McPhillips is one to watch **

This is a brilliantly constructed, deeply unsettling and wholly captivating debut novel by Fiona McPhillips.

It follows the story of Lou Manson in two timelines, then and now. Although fiction, it tackles the horrific child abuse stories that have emerged in recent years. Through Lou’s tale, the novel hauntingly demonstrates the multiple layers that protect institutional abuse, it accurately captures the helplessness of victims, and it cleverly illustrates the resounding impact of abuse across the lives of those affected. It sustains a racy pace as the back story unfolds and remains gripping to its conclusion.

Another aspect to the writing that I wholly enjoyed was the interweaving of the sub-culture of indie-goth-esque 1980/90’s Dublin with references to mixtapes, the rise of Madonna, Capital Radio (OMG!), the Diceman, Walkman’s, Ghetto Blasters, White Musk ‘perfume’, and many many (old favorite) band references! As well as inducing fond memories, this added to the authenticity of the time and location setting, inserting a sidebar of pleasure to the read. Furthermore, the descriptions of the private girl’s school, including the environment, the culture, and the behaviors, are so accurate, I had to wonder if the story was based in my former school. Lastly, despite its heavy theme, this book is quite humorous in parts.

** This is a superb BOOK CLUB read, with lots of content to discuss **

** If you are looking for a solid well written story, this is the book for you **

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When We Were Silent by Fiona McPhillips is a phenomenal depiction of the abuse suffered by students and athletes in 1980s Ireland at the hands of those in positions of power, while those in positions of authority stand by and the systems fail those in need. I think the author handled the themes of sexual abuse, substance abuse in the home, and Irelands systematic failure of our young people so well. She didn't shy away from the details, she made us sit in the discomfort of it all, and I really found this added to the authenticity of the story. The writing was gripping and immersive. I loved the dual timeline aspect of this book. It added so much to the character development and further highlighted the consistent issue we've had in this country with abuse over generations. I can't wait to read more from Fiona McPhillips. With thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in advance in exchange for a review.

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A gripping, evocative, dark thriller that I could not put down. Set in both the past and the present, "When We Were Silent" brings us into the world of Lou, a young woman who finds out what happened to her friend and is determined to make it right. The aftermath of that choice follows her for years.

This book will stick me for a while, in part because I know that element of the story are indeed non-fiction (there is a history of sexual abuse within the Irish swimming community) but also of how deftly McPhillips was in the telling. She captured Ireland perfectly in that time, showing the various axes of power that Lou was facing, from classism, to the church, to patriarchy. I think she also highlighted something that people sometimes forget, money and privilege don't always keep you safe and indeed can sometimes be the noose that prevents you from doing the right thing (as was illustrated by Shauna).

Overall, it's an incredibly well done book, one that handles a sensitive and hard topic with great humanity and insight.

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This is one of those books I don’t think I will be able to forget it’s a heartbreaking story that will always linger in my mind. It’s quite hard to say I liked the book because it deals with some very disturbing subjects that the majority of us of never wish to have experience of but it is a book that I’m glad to have read.
The story is told in a past and present timeline and that works really well, the writing is superb and the whole of the book is extremely well crafted which can’t have been easy when dealing with a difficult subject.
So a powerful and intense read that was difficult to put down and praise for Fiona McPhillips for wring a story with wonderful empathy.
My thanks also to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Out of the blue Lou Manson receives a call from someone in her past. After meeting up with the caller, Ronan Power, Lou realises that the events from the Highfield affair are going to be resurrected and her life will once again be thrown into turmoil.

A story that is as relevant today as it always has been. Though a work of fiction, this book has dealt with what could be a true story with empathy and care. A dark troubling tale of abuse, coercion, secrets and lies. Very much a case of “what if” and “only if I’d spoken up”, showing that those in power who shield the perpetrator are as guilty in a different way as those who commit the act.

Beautifully written, intense and powerful, a story with a conscience.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House.

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Amazing book!
I was thoroughly engaged throughout this book and I didn't want to put it down! The author captured my attention from the get go! Five stars from me :)

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I can't remember the last time a book had such a profound impact on me. 30 years after leaving school Lou is asked to testify against her old school. This book is just superb. It deals with serious incidents in a realistic manner. I can't stop thinking about Lou & her story. This is a book that has to be read & is set to be one of most important impactful books of 2024.

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This is an intense, thought-provoking, and dark read, addressing feminism, #MeToo empowerment, abuse, mental health, class disparities, and the dangers that lurk in everyday life from a young woman’s perspective. It left me breathless. Some chapters are difficult to digest, but the honest, brutally honest writing, well-developed characters, and intriguing mystery will keep you engaged from start to finish. I wholeheartedly give it five stars and eagerly anticipate future works by this author.

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A very well written tale of prestige and classes. Great mystery surrounding the story, told part in past and present, making for an all round intriguing tale.

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“I’m not here for prestige. I’m here for revenge.”

Louise Manson is an outsider when she joins the final-year class at Highfield Manor, Dublin’s most exclusive private school. Beyond the granite pillars and the wrought-iron gates is a world of wealth, privilege and potential. But Highfield is also hiding a dark secret, and she is here to expose it. The problem? Why would anyone believe her, a girl from a Ballybrack estate, when the other elite students are keeping schtum?

The contrast between Lou’s working-class background couldn’t be more different to the affluence of most other Highfield students, and it helps set the scene for a gripping tale of exploitation and retribution.

Not only does Lou have to contend with cliquey students and an unstable family life, but she is carrying a vast amount of guilt and grief over the loss of her friend Tina, a promising athlete, who committed suicide after making allegations against a Highfield teacher.

Thirty years later, Lou is encouraged to testify in a new lawsuit against Highfield. But telling the truth means confronting her past and the one story she swore she’d never tell. On top of this, she is struggling with her relationship with her teenage daughter, but is it a valid concern or a consequence of her own past trauma that has her anxiety soaring?

When We Were Silent tells Lou’s gripping story over a dual timeline; every page oozes drama, a claustrophobic web of loyalties, lies and privilege as long-buried secrets emerge. Despite the gritty, sometimes uncomfortably painful topics, this book is sensitively written and packed with emotion. 4.5⭐

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy; this, as always, is an honest review. When We Were Silent is out in May.

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This gripping dark academia novel really made me think. It’s an intelligently written novel that shines a spotlight on the Queen Bee dynamics in young, female relationships. It made me think, and I really enjoyed it.

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This was a beautifully written, compulsive read. Asked to be a witness in a court case about the cover up of sexual abuse at her old school, the main character is forced to relive her past. Both timelines are tense and intriguing and I loved the references to 80’s music especially. There are strong, intriguing female characters, toxic friends and a surprising twist. I couldn’t put it down.

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Lou has won a scholarship to a prestigious girl's school but she arrives with an agenda .
However once she meets Shauna things take a different turn and suddenly everything is spiralling out of control

Highly Recommended

Thankyou NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review

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I could not resist this book’s blurb, thank you to NetGalley and Transworld Publishers for this review copy. This debut novel is guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.
The author takes you on a suspenseful journey into the secrets and scandals that lurk within the walls of Highfield Manor, Dublin’s most elite private school. The story unfolds with Louise Manson, a working-class outsider, infiltrating the world of privilege at Highfield with a mission to expose a dark and festering secret. The contrast between Louise’s background and the wealth of Highfield sets the stage for a gripping tale of exploitation, privilege and retribution. As Louise befriends some of her rich classmates, her attempts to unveil the truth about the school lead to unexpected consequences, including the discovery of a dead body. The narrative weaves together elements of mystery and suspense, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you flip the pages.
The story takes a compelling turn as it fast-forwards thirty years into the future, where Louise receives a shocking phone call. A high-profile lawyer is bringing a case against Highfield and he needs Louise to testify. The prospect of confronting her past and revealing the long-buried secrets of the school adds a layer of complexity to the story, ensuring that you are engrossed in the present-day legal drama but also eager to unravel the events that transpired three decades ago.
The author’s writing is compelling, drawing you into the world of Highfield Manor with vivid descriptions of its granite walls, high-arched alcoves and oak-lined library. The exploration of exploitation and privilege adds depth to the story, making it more than just a suspenseful thriller. The novel prompts you to reflect on the consequences of unchecked power and the lengths individuals will go to protect their secrets.
“When We Were Silent” is an unputdownable tale that seamlessly blends elements of mystery and social commentary. The author’s ability to create a suspenseful narrative, coupled with themes of privilege and justice, makes this debut novel a standout in the genre. As the story unfolds, you will find yourself captivated by the intricate web of secrets at Highfield Manor and compelled to discover the truth alongside Louise Manson.
I would highly recommend this book and I am keeping an eye out for this author’s next release. I look forward to reading more from her.

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I inhaled this book. Lou is such a feisty yet vulnerable character. Powerless because of her youth, her sex but also her background. Her fight is constant. Her enemies many. Deliciously dark it transported me right back to my school days.
Both time lines are equally engaging- something which I feel authors often fall short on.Lou´s life as an adult is every bit as compelling as her teenage struggle. I can’t wait to see what this author produces next.

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Scandals and secrets at an all girls school? Sign me up!

This was very well written story that gripped my attention from the first page, and did not let go at all!

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I loved the dark academia vibes but kind of lost interest halfway through the book :(

I made a short video about it:
https://www.youtube.com/shorts/sWYKmHsG2IA

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Wow. This book really sucks you in from the get-go and never lets go. Set over two timelines that bring past and present together perfectly in a story that will sit with you long after you've finished the last page. The writing is sublime and for a debut, I was blown away. Fiona McPhillips is an author to watch.

Thanks to Netgalley, the Author, and the Publisher for an advanced copy.

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Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the ARC! Unfortunately, I had to DNF this book around 13% in. The synopsis sounded interesting, but it just didn't draw me in. With so many thrillers/mysteries on the market these days, if the reader isn't hooked by 10% then they're just going to grab a new book on their shelf. Readers of "The Secret History", boarding schools & long term revenge will enjoy this.

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