Teenage fiction

31st March 2000 at 01:00
The Raging Quiet. By Sherryl Jordan. Simon amp; Schuster pound;7.99

Sherryl Jordan's fine novel is set in an imaginary late medieval world, with all its ignorance, superstition and bigotry, and explores issues of discrimination which are still relevant today.

A young woman, Marnie, is left isolated in a seaside village after the sudden death of her husband, and lives alone in a house which once belonged to a woman who was burned as a witch. Suspicion of her turns to hatred when she befriends a wild boy, Raver, and appears to communicate with him in a secret language. In fact she realises that he is deaf and creates a signing language with him.

Jordan has worked with profoundly deaf children in New Zealand over some years. Her handling of Raver's transformatio through the power of communication and love (in place of the villagers' brutality) to a gentle and sensitive boy (with a new name, Raven) is movingly and convincingly handled as is the cruelty of the villagers' response to this change.

A priest's friendship offers some protection, but even he cannot save Marnie from being tried by fire as a witch. The story moves at a highly charged pace as the sense of threat encloses the strongly drawn characters. As the bond intensifies between Marnie, the priest and Raven, so will the reader's empathy with their predicament.

The Raging Quiet is both a moving love story and a parable about the continued bigotry of humans in the face of the different and the unfamiliar. I strongly recommend it.

JANNI HOWKER


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