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Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball – a Review of Sorts

March 20, 2014

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (January 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307908488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307908483

This is my fourth Jesse Ball book and I remain impressed.

Ball writes a book as though he were an artist making gentle brush strokes with oil on canvas. It’s obvious he has the heart of a poet. I can honestly say that I’ve never read any other written works that are quite like this young man’s.

In this book, Mr. Ball steps into his own “fiction” as a reporter researching a story of a series of disappearances in Japan many years previously and the resulting criminal investigations and the “justice” doled out as a result of them; justice that included the hanging of a man who confessed to the “crime”.

You may note that the words fiction and crime are both in quotes in the above paragraph. I do this because I’m unsure that the first is accurate nor the second morally correct. You’ll have to read Mr. Ball’s story to understand fully what I mean by that.

I must also mention here the physical appearance of the book itself, which is often an important component of my overall enjoyment of what the younger crowd is now referring to as a “dead tree” book. This book that I read was a Pantheon Book (Random House, LLC). The binding boards are pure white, unusual for most hardcover books, I believe. It’s also about 10% smaller in height/width than a normal hardcover.

Then there is the unique dustcover image; a stark set of eyes and hint of a nose shadow on slightly off-white paper with a dusting of threadlike debris. Note also the red wax pencil scribbling over the words “A Novel”. Or is this Jesse Ball’s signature? Interesting, hmm? As to the image of the face; is it that of one of the book’s characters? Could be. However, to me, there is also the hint of the author’s own face in that image. What do you see?

While this author’s first three books (also reviewed here) were unique in their own ways, this current offering is a notch or two above the others, in my opinion. The previous had their points to be made. They were entertaining. They were thought-provoking.

Silence Once Begun is deep; much deeper than it seems at first glance. A reader will wonder where this young man found his inspiration for this story. Was it purely a product of his imagination? Was their really some factual basis as stated by the author on page xii of the introductory pages of the book? Was any small portion of this story something directly reflecting the author’s own personal experiences? We may never know.

Ultimately, a book is judged by that feeling that the reader gets as he folds down the back cover after reading the words on that final page; the last series of words laid down by the author on that last blank sheet of paper in his typewriter or that last page of his MS Word document.

When that feeling is one of satiation, contentment, warmth, and many other complimentary and often contradictory feelings, then the book is a good one. Bad books only generated feelings of disappointment as that back cover is turned over.

That feeling as the cover is turned, though, is a very personal one. What I felt when I closed the cover of Silence Once Begun may or may not be what you feel should you have the opportunity to read this book. Therefore, I cannot judge for you. I can only tell you what I thought.

What I thought as I closed that cover on this book is that it is probably Jesse Ball’s best so far. I don’t often re-read books, but this may be one that I’ll have to stew on for a while and then re-read. Was this a good book? In my opinion, most definitely.

Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.



Further reading: A very interesting interview of the author by Shawn Andrew Mitchell at

Image credits: book image, stock publisher’s image

This article is being published simultaneously on My Passion Is Books blog – all rights reserved by the original author. Copyright authority is that of Nocturnal Slacker v2.0 – V. T. Eric Layton.

  1. March 20, 2014 7:19 PM

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks so much for taking time to simulcast your blog posting here on My Passion Is Books blog!

    Sounds like a really good book! Thanks for suggesting it and telling us about it!


  2. March 20, 2014 10:08 PM

    As I just suggested to another commenter on my own blog about Jesse Ball, he may be an acquired taste. I usually suggest that folks start out with his first book and read them in order. They’re not at all related story-wise, but you can see his style evolving from one book to the next when you read them that way. It helps to develop the appreciation for his writing style.

    Thanks for the opportunity to blather on a bit here at My Passion Is Books. All this exposure is going to make me rich and famous one day. 😉




    • March 20, 2014 10:46 PM

      Sounds like sound advice for many writers’ works.

      I hope it does (your writing) make you famous and as rich as will keep you happy, Eric!


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