Jordan, S. (1999) The Raging Quiet. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Appetizer: Sixteen-year-old Marnie, married to a man twice her age in order to save her family, is left abruptly widowed and abandoned in the remote fishing village of Torcurra. She befriends the local madman and discovers that, far from being insane, Raven is simply deaf. All too soon, though, her intolerant neighbors notice the positive changes in Raven... and accuse Marnie of being a witch.
I've been wanting to review this book for ages, guys, because it's one of my absolute favorites of *all time*. (Shh. Don't tell Redwall.) I'm a sucker for historical romances in the first place, but when you throw in a brilliant and stubborn protagonist like Marnie, an attractive and mysterious "madman," and pages upon pages of delicious descriptions of windswept cliffs and pounding surf... well, I'm hooked! Plus, listen to this first line: "The afternoon Marnie came to Torcurra, the villagers were whipping the devils out of a mad boy." How can you not immediately want to read it!?
Marnie develops a type of sign language to communicate with Raven, after she discovers that he doesn't understand her when she speaks. It's fascinating to watch this language evolve. They start off clunky and stilted -- Me, you, drink -- and end up so complex you forget they're signing. (Do you want me to get you warm water, and you can wash? Your face is black, your hair is like an old woman's, from the dirt.) As their language evolves, so too does their relationship. Marnie, always courageous, manages to rise above the fear her marriage (and the neighbors) have instilled in her. Raven is transformed, from a scared and beaten boy who quite probably wouldn't have lived to twenty, to a confident and loving man. Of course, there's some drama before the two of them can get to that point.
Just like any great book, there are some risky topics, so be prepared. Marnie is legally married to Isake, but for all intents and purposes what happens between them is rape. (I don't care how nice he might seem, and how many descriptions of his "laughing eyes" we get to read. No means no, sir.) There's also torture, vivid nightmares, and a good old fashioned Witch Trial filled with all the chaos and pain that one would expect. And let's not forget the inherent creepiness of Marnie being married to someone who reflects, lustfully, that she's "Younger than [his] last daughter." Yick.
Rise above the difficult parts of the book, though, and read The Raging Quiet. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Jordan writes as though she is watching the events unfold in front of her -- and describes things so well that you'll think you're trapped in Torcurra too, amidst the peat fires and suspicious neighbors and branding irons. If Shel had given me more than five exclamation points to use as a rating system, believe me, I'd use every possible one.
"Fool, fool, Marnie Isherwood!" she said as she sat by the fire and rubbed furiously at her wet hair with a cloth. "Fool, to get him all inspired, and then to stop! He'll always be a step ahead, wanting another word, while you shilly-shall about and drive him half made with impatience! You'll drive yourself mad as well, trying to keep up with him! You'll always come up against that great silence of his, and all the trying in the world won't make a road across it. You're a fool to think you could, Marnie. A flaming fool." (P. 82)
"I want to talk to you!" she shouted. They both were shaking, their faces and hands blue with the cold.
Go away! he signed. You are like the whip on my back.
He ran on, and she stared after him, anguished.
Above the sea huge clouds were banking up, and the sun vanished and a violent wind was lashing the waves to white. (P. 177)
"Why are you so stubborn, father?"
"Me, stubborn?" cried Father Brannan, nearly choking on his pudding. "Listen to who's talking! The most mulish, argumentative, contrary woman I ever met! And you call me stubborn!"
"Call me any more names, father, and I'll take away your pudding."
"In that case, I'll eat my words, along with my plum pie. I do apologize. I was speaking from the depths of mortification and shock." (P. 234)
Tasty Rating: !!!!!
If you thought this was delicious, try:
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt
Another classic historical novel with lots of romance and adventure thrown into the mix, it's a book that will stick with you long after you finish the last page.