When we were silent

Fiona McPhillips

Book - 2024

"An outsider threatens to expose the secrets at an elite private school in this suspenseful debut novel for readers of My Dark Vanessa and Dare Me Louise Manson is the newest student at Highfield Manor, Dublin's most exclusive private school. It seems nearly perfect: the high arched window alcoves and tall granite pillars, the overspill of lilac at the front gate and the immaculate playing fields, the giggling students, the dusty, oak-lined library, and the dark, festering secret she has come to expose. At first, Lou's working-class status makes her the consummate outsider, though all that changes when she is befriended by the beautiful and wealthy Shauna Power. But Lou finds out that even Shauna is caught up in Highfield...9;s web, and her time there ends with a lifeless body sprawled at her feet. Thirty years later, Lou has rebuilt her life after the harrowing events of the so-called "Highfield Affair," when she gets a shocking phone call. Ronan Power, Shauna's brother, is a high-profile lawyer bringing a lawsuit against the school. And he needs Lou to testify. Now with a daughter and career to protect, the last thing Lou wants is for Highfield Manor to be back in her life. But to finally free herself and others, she has to confront her past, go to battle once more, and discover, for once and for all, what really happened at Highfield. Powerful and compelling, When We Were Silent is an unputdownable, thrilling story of exploitation, privilege, and retribution"--

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FICTION/Mcphilli Fiona
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Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Mcphilli Fiona (NEW SHELF) Due Jun 26, 2024
Thrillers (Fiction)
New York : Flatiron Books 2024.
Main Author
Fiona McPhillips (author)
First edition
Physical Description
310 pages ; 25 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

McPhillips' debut is a thought-provoking novel of suspense steeped in dark academia. In alternating time lines between 1986 at Highfield Manor, an exclusive private school in Dublin, and the present day, a scholarship student threatens to expose long-buried secrets that will upend the school's traditions. Due to her working-class status, Louise Manson feels like an outsider at a school full of privilege. When her friend is found dead, Louise is determined to uncover secrets that she may have been hiding. Thirty years later, Louise receives a call from a lawyer who is bringing a suit against the school for a similar incident. Called to testify, Louise is forced to face her past and determine what really happened. This sensitively written novel explores themes of trauma, abuse, mental health, revenge, friendship, and class divisions. Through her depiction of exploitation and retribution, McPhillips demonstrates how hard it is to get justice in the #MeToo era. This powerful story takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride filled with twists and turns and dangerous predators.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A Dublin Catholic school's culture of silence proves deadly in Irish journalist McPhillips's searing debut novel. In 1986, 17-year-old Louise Manson enrolls at the prestigious Highfield Manor to avenge her best friend Tina, who got pregnant and killed herself after being repeatedly raped by Maurice McQueen, the school's gym teacher and swim coach. McQueen promptly molests Lou, but when she reports him to school authorities, nobody believes her. Desperate and furious, Lou hatches a plan to publicly expose McQueen that ends in someone's death. Thirty-plus years later, Lou--now a married professor with a teenage daughter--has worked hard to move past "the Highfield Affair." When an attorney asks her to testify on behalf of a 14-year-old suing Highfield for the "systemic cover-up of abuse in the school and the swimming club over decades," she reluctantly agrees. Then someone tries to extort her into staying silent, prompting Lou to again take matters into her own hands, with shattering results. McPhillips deftly alternates between past and present, maximizing suspense by playing multiple mysteries in each timeline off one another. With the added urgency of Lou's first-person-present narration, the author wrings her powerful plot for maximum impact. This is a triumph. (May)

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