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Fiction Contemporary Women

Speak, Silence

by (author) Kim Echlin

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2021
Contemporary Women, Political, Literary
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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From the internationally bestselling and Giller-shortlisted author of The Disappeared, an astounding, poetic novel about war and loss, suffering and courage, and the strength of women through it all.

It’s been eleven years since Gota has seen Kosmos, yet she still finds herself fantasizing about their intimate year together in Paris. Now it’s 1999 and, working as a journalist, she hears about a film festival in Sarajevo, where she knows Kosmos will be with his theatre company. She takes the assignment to investigate the fallout of the Bosnian war—and to reconnect with the love of her life.

But when they are reunited, she finds a man, and a country, altered beyond recognition. Kosmos introduces Gota to Edina, the woman he has always loved. While Gota treads the precarious terrain of her evolving connection to Kosmos, she and Edina forge an unexpected bond. A lawyer and a force to be reckoned with, Edina exposes the sexual violence that she and thousands of others survived in the war. Before long, Gota finds her life entwined with the community of women and travels with them to The Hague to confront their abusers. The events she covers—and the stories she hears—will change her
life forever.

Written in Kim Echlin’s masterfully luminescent prose, Speak, Silence weaves together the experiences of a resilient sisterhood and tells the story of the real-life trial that would come to shape history. In a heart-wrenching tale of suffering and loss and a beautiful illustration of power and love, Echlin explores what it means to speak out against the very people who would do anything to silence you.

About the author

A nationalist and lifelong journalist, Barbara Moon was the author of hundreds of major articles in magazines such as Maclean's and Saturday Night and features in newspapers such as the Globe and Mail. She wrote dozens of television documentaries, among them several segments of the experimental CBC-TV Images of Canada series, and books, including The Natural History of the Canadian Shield. From 1992 to 1998, she was a senior editor for the Creative Non-fiction and Cultural Journalism Program (now called the Literary Journalism Program) at The Banff Centre. Among relevant honours, Moon held a Maclean-Hunter first prize for Editorial Achievement, the University of Western Ontario's President's Medal, and the National Magazine Foundation's Award for Outstanding Achievement. Barbara Moon died in April 2009 near her home in Picton, Ontario, after a brief illness. Kim Echlin is the author of Elephant Winter, nominated for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and won the TORGI Talking Book of the Year Award. Her latest novel is The Disappeared. After completing a doctoral thesis on Ojibway story-telling, she travelled in search of stories through the Marshall Islands, China, France, and Zimbabwe. On her return to Canada she became an arts documentary producer with CBC's The Journal, and a writer for various publications. Don Obe is a professor emeritus of magazine journalism, a former chair of the school and founder of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. His professional experience includes editor-in-chief of The Canadian magazine and Toronto Life, and associate editor of Maclean's. From 1989 to 1999 he was senior resident editor in and, at times, the director of the Creative Nonfiction and Cultural Journalism Program (now called the Literary Journalism Program) at the Banff Centre. He won a gold medal in the National Magazine Awards for ethical writing and, in l993, his industry's highest honour, the National Magazine Award for Outstanding Achievement. He retired in 2001.

Kim Echlin's profile page


  • Nominated, OLA Evergreen Award
  • Winner, Toronto Book Award

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Speak, Silence:

“[P]owerful . . . an incredibly forceful book that insists readers sit up and pay attention; despite the gains made with the Foča trial, most of us continue to turn a blind eye to abuses taking place around the world. With [Speak, Silence], Echlin demands more of us.”
Quill & Quire, starred review

“Through a story of tragedy and community rebuilding, Speak, Silence hooks the reader from the beginning to the last page. . . . In an impeccably well-researched text, Kim Echlin portrays the horrors of the Bosnian war through the stories of systemic sexual assault in three generations of a Muslim family. With prose that portrays both horror and hope, Echlin takes the reader on a journey that follows women of all ages as they force the world to acknowledge for the first time that rape is not only a crime against an individual, it is also a crime against humanity.”
—2021 Toronto Book Awards Jury
“The chess [in Speak, Silence] echoes the strategy and flexibility of the courtroom, with the dogged, methodical preparation and the psychodynamics of each side. . . . Echlin’s books, difficult as their subjects can be, are much more than worth the pain. Beyond their considerable literary merit and pleasure, they offer a richer, deeper, truer entrée than non-fiction can provide into happenings we would often prefer to ignore. They give us a peerless chance to listen.”
Literary Review of Canada

“[A] necessary novel. . . . Speak, Silence is a bridge between those purely fictional stories of women’s trauma at the hands of men, and the purely non-fiction books about the war crime of rape. . . . [Y]ou need to read this book.”
Toronto Star

“Writing about living through a war draws on some of our most volatile emotions and fears—the balance between trauma and sensationalism is a precarious one. Writing about the rage and humiliation of women raped in war takes this already precarious balance several degrees further. Speak, Silence ushers us into a community of women who guide us with sensitivity, clarity and love through their resistance to being stereotyped as victims.”
—Ellen Elias-Bursac, translator of South Slavic languages and author of Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal

“Between 1991 and 1995, an estimated 60,000 women were raped in wars in the former Yugoslavia. But the women did not allow these rapes to become an historical footnote or ‘collateral damage.’ They witnessed their ordeal in The Hague's International Tribunal. Thanks to these women, the world understood—for the first time—rape as a weapon of war and found the accused guilty of a Crime Against Humanity. This carefully researched and well-crafted novel, based on these true events, is an impressive monument to the women.”
—Slavenka Drakulić, journalist and author of They Would Never Hurt a Fly

“[Speak, Silence] is a testament both to empathy and also to its limits. . . . It’s brutal in a sense, but just as beautiful, Echlin embodying both-ness again by making death-and-violence and undying love both absolutely true at once.”
—Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes and Waiting for a Star to Fall
Speak, Silence is well-researched and beautifully crafted. The narrative slips through time, sometimes moving quickly through events and sometimes in slow and deliberate detail. Echlin’s prose is both succinct and eloquent, and her dialogue shines, sometimes more in what isn’t said than what is on the page. . . . [It] is a crushing call to bear witness to the brutal crimes committed against women in the Yugoslav wars.”
Cloud Lake Literary

“[Echlin] writes with the beauty of a poet, and the empathy of a family member. . . . [Speak, Silence] is a tender meditation on female strength, our willpower, and our motivation to simply keep going. . . . Echlin gives us a glimpse into this unexplainable dichotomy in a memorable novel that is sure to hit the prize lists.”
Book Reviews for Bookworms

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