Title: The Confusion of Languages
Author: Siobhan Fallon
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Length: 336 pages
Available: 26 June 2017
On the eve of the Arab spring, two women weighed down by their secrets are put on a collision pattern in Sioban Fallon’s The Confusion of Languages.
When Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw meet, it’s clear the difference between the two. Cassie, who had come to Jordan with her husband two years ago, is one who adapts to her surroundings. She’s aware of the customs of the Jordanian people and goes out of her way to make sure she’s respecting the country and the culture that she’s a visitor in. But in the time they’ve been in Jordan, she and her husband have grown distance — especially the harder they try and have a child.
“I looked at Dan, wanting him to come up and do that same thing, pull me close, prove his ownership, but Dan remained out of reach.”
– Loc. 237
Margaret, on the other hand, has it all: perfect, loving husband and beautiful baby. But it becomes clear quickly that she doesn’t believe in adapting, let alone blending in. Margaret is a woman who is born to stand out. Cassie has her suspicions about Margaret, and the lengths she’ll go to ignore the customs of her new home, but doesn’t learn the truth until the night Margaret disappears.
Both women are easy to love and hate all at once. Told in alternating points of view, the reader gets a look into what their lives — their marriages — really look like. But this story goes beyond marriage grievances and the stresses a military lifestyle can put on a relationship. What Fallon has crafted is an honest, poignant story that, on one hand, highlights the dangers of embracing ignorance and believing that American customs can transcend borders. On the other, between dialogue heavy scenes, she explores what isn’t communicated with words and how easy it is to project your own feelings and desires onto what’s left unsaid.
“If no one is watching, can you finally be absolutely yourself? If no one is assessing you, are you able to clearly assess yourself, be confident in your small, dark space? Or maybe you become a nonentity, invisible without your individual details setting you apart”
– Loc. 2171
It’s those moments of silence, of when we force ourselves to keep our mouths shut out of respect, or fear, or because we think it’s what’s right, is when the biggest mistakes can be made. Assumption is both Cassie and Margaret’s greatest weakness. It’s what drives them together and what pushes them apart.
The Confusion of Languages is Fallon’s debut novel and the perfect read for anyone looking for a multi-layered story focused on friendship and marriage with a gripping mystery, filled with beautiful details of a foreign land.