The Vestige of Silence by Jorge Yacoman follows a young man called Harry who meets and starts a relationship with a woman named Frances. They make eye-contact on a bus one day and the story goes from there. However, the themes of the novel are not only romantic. Harry is depressed and struggling to remember parts of his life. In fact, he has gaping holes in his memories. This adds a more mysterious element to the novel but it remains throughout an in depth look into the thoughts, feelings and past of our main character. While there are some revelations, this is mostly a character based novel. Harry is a well thought out character and by the end of the novel you feel as if you know him – the insights given by Yacoman are relevant and you are always pleased to learn more.
The style of writing is a stream of consciousness from our main character. It is easy to read and flows well. Any conversations he has are realistic, and the dialogue works. Sometimes in novels they fall short once the dialogue hits; it feels the characters are say things purely to drive the plot forward rather than anything to do with their actual personality. Luckily this is not one of those books.
However, there is one problem with this stream of consciousness; on occasion it can resemble a similar book – namely The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. While being inspired by other authors is in no way a crime (and is actually rather necessary), Yacoman can occasionally take it too far, and seems to mimic rather than take influence from. For example, at one point Harry tells the reader ‘it killed me. I can never get along with most rich people, to be honest, they’re so damn phoney’. I think anyone who has read The Catcher in the Rye can tell that this could easily have been picked straight from Salinger’s novel and placed in this book. However, there are only a few instances of this which can all easily be removed, and once they are gone the book will easily stand up on its own.
Overall, this is a strong character driven novel which deals with important themes of mental health and deal with this while in a relationship. Yacoman handles these themes with care and respect. He has a good ability to let his reader get to know his character without being obvious. It is subtle and slow, which is how character driven novels like this should be.
By Jorge Yacoman
A young man starts a relationship with a woman while struggling to remember some dark periods of his life.