Silence of the Seamaid
by Ann Medlock
Genre: Literary Fiction / Feminist
Print Length: 328 pages
Reviewed by Elana Sztokman
A powerful poetic exploration of the challenges faced by women yearning for independence in a patriarchal world
Lee Palmer is a woman many of us can relate to. She is thoughtful, intelligent, and caring, but she also has dreams and desires to live independently and follow her own path. And she learns, always the hard way, it seems, that these different dreams may not be able to coexist.
Lee, the heroine of Ann Medlock’s new feminist novel Silence of the Seamaid, does what many women have done for generations. She gets married to the man who charms her and deceives her into thinking that control and violence are actually love. Medlock masterfully unveils this gendered trap, one experienced by myriads of women across cultures, and the web of dilemmas that Palmer faces along the way.
Lee lives in a world dominated by the idea that a woman’s place is at home tending to flowers and children. When she meets and falls in love with a seeming knight in shining armor, the brilliant and charming Joe Montagna, she ignores all the voices coming at her warning her of the dangers that she faces.
When Joe surprises her on their honeymoon with a trip on a yacht – as if he did not know of her terrible fears of the sea – she pushes asides her anxieties and her needs, and goes along. She ultimately has to swim through the torrential waters in order to escape the marriage and find freedom – a journey that nearly costs her life.
This book takes a deep dive into the torment faced by women who just want to live their lives amid haunting pressures coming at them from all sides. The story explores many issues faced by women then and now, such as fears of homelessness, financial dependency, emotional abuse, and narcissistic relationships.
Medlock, a poet and social entrepreneur who has written poetry and blogs but for whom this is the first novel, is a stunning writer as well as creator of complex character. The book masterfully relies on water metaphors that evoke real trauma as well as depths of consciousness. In one moving passage, she writes, “It made no sense to Lee. How could being in the sea ever be good, even in dreams? That was where the drowning men spiraled around her, demanding she save them, even if it meant drowning herself. Being in any water at all meant choking, gasping, dying. Nevertheless, she found herself, at the closing of days when she had triggered Joe’s wrath, hoping the good sea dream was waiting for her that night.”
Silence of the Seamaid is an engaging, enraging, and inspiring story about women and the will that it sometimes takes for them to simply live. I highly recommend the book for readers who love a powerful female lead character finding her strength in the face of patriarchy’s harshest violence.
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