With Chapter Seven we reach the end of Part 1 of We’ll Never Tell Them. Before starting this post, I looked back to see when I wrote my review of Chapter Six. I thought it was in last month but it turns out to have been last October. I am amazed it was that long. I wonder if I will finish this series before 2100! I hope so.
Anyway, as you may – or probably don’t thanks to my tardiness – recall, Liljana was unfairly accused of stealing by Mrs Burnett and hauled off to the police station. Upon his return home, she was rescued from there by Mr. Burnett. In Chapter Seven, he and Dr. Hampton debate what to do with the poor girl. They decide to send her to a private school run by Dr. Hampton’s brother in England. After reading this chapter, I jotted down some key words:
As Dr. Hampton discovers when he visits Liljana, the police have burned her with cigarettes. He applies iodine to the wound and we marvel that Liljana is able to hold herself together as it stings and burns her. But after our first thoughts, there can only be sadness that she is so capable of holding her emotions in as this ability is the product of a life lived harshly and most cruelly.
There is a sense in which Liljana lacks identity. The policeman who sunk the lit end of his cigarette into her neck did not see a fellow human being, and a very vulnerable one at that, and by not giving her a place in their discussions, Dr. Hampton and Mr Burnett also turn their backs to her face. Well, at least their intentions are good. In a way, Liljana also denies her own identity, for when she freezes her emotions out she denies the truth of who and what she is. Dr. Hampton notes her stunted growth, caused by ‘years of undernourishment’. Liljana is quite literally not the person she ought to be, and therefore, less of what she ought to be. This also diminishes her identity.
Connected to identity – Liljana’s voicelessness is caused by her exclusion from Dr. Hampton’s and Mr. Burnett’s discussions, and again, by her lack of emotions. At the end of the chapter she boards the ship that will take her to England. She is heading into an effective exile from a society that – as de Maria notes – has no place for a mad woman or her daughter.
This has to be the key word going into Part 2 of the book. Liljana is damaged. How will this play out in her new life? Are we heading towards a tragedy? Well, we know from Leo that Liljana will one day have a child but not much more than that.
At this point in time, the odds do not seem very good for Liljana. Only the lightness of Fiorella de Maria’s writing stops We’ll Never Tell Them from becoming a hard-to-read darker-than-night drama.
When I started writing my chapter-by-chapter review, I wanted to highlight how the book seems to change genre from time to time. I think so far we have gone from chick-lit (Kristjana ditching her job), to children’s story with a little contemporary fiction in between. I have to admit, though, the changes haven’t been as pronounced as my memory told me. I should point out that in terms of the book’s quality, all this is neither here nor there. We’ll Never Tell Them is a good work.
One last thing; as I prepare to turn the page and begin Part 2 (hopefully before April), I do have one pang of regret – that we haven’t learnt more about why Kristjana decided to chuck her job and leave Britain. Will it come later? The scene where she drops her mobile phone into the water in St. James’ Park was such a powerful one, I would love to know what lead up to it.