Book review: Silent Night by Nell Pattison

a pile of books on a window sill

Joanne McVicker reviews Silent Night by Nell Pattison, a story told from the perspective of a BSL interpreter which gave Joanne an greater understanding of the deaf community.

“The setting of this novel is a deaf school in England. Some pupils and teachers go on a residential school trip and wake up to find their teacher has been murdered and one of their pupils have gone missing. The story is told through the eyes of the BSL interpreter called Paige Northwood who works freelance for police investigations. She gets a primary view of the story from the police side and the school’s side. However, she also has past experience of one of the teachers who is an abusive ex-partner of hers and he only got a job in the school through Paige teaching him BSL.

Pattison does a great job to give the deaf community their voice by writing everything that is signed in italics and everything else that is spoken in quotation marks, thus avoiding the repetition of “he signed” or “she interpreted” for the reader. Instead the words come directly from the primary source and there is no delay in conversation. Also some students in the school are verbal but prefer to sign. In one conversation, Bradley (one of the students) uses his voice to show his frustration and emotion and the effect of this was highlighted by the author. This shows that they are not limited by their deafness and that some students can choose to communicate however they chose to. Pattison also highlights body language as a key form of communication and references this throughout the novel.

This book highlights important facts about the deaf community and gives the reader a broad understanding of the context. For example, Pattison states how the BSL interpreter must stand to be able to understand both the hearing and the deaf party. It is stated how Paige gains the attention of the deaf students by how she waves to them and how to gently taps them on their shoulder. In the same way, Paige is able to gain greater understanding than the police as she is able to understand seemingly private conversations between students which helps the investigation.

In the same way, the author uses and gives explanations of key terminology. For example, one child was termed a C.O.D.A. The author explained that this stands for a Child Of Deaf Adult and expanded what this term meant. As I am not part of the deaf community myself, this explanation was very helpful.

Thanks to this novel, I have been given a glimpse into the lives of people living in the deaf community. This includes the challenges they face and how they can overcome those challenges. The crime drama theme along with the character progression kept me gripped and constantly wanting more. This novel definitely was a page turner but on completion you will also have gained a new understanding about BSL interpreters and users. And best of all there are two other books which follow the life of Paige and her work as a BSL interpreter which I can’t wait to read next!”

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