February 06, 2007

The Sound of Silence

Ms. Francine Green ("With Es like eek and screech and beanie,") can see the lights from Hollywood on premier nights, is deeply infatuated with Montgomery Clift, and wants to be an star -- an actress on film or stage. She sometimes dreams her life as a movie or a play, imagining herself saying classy lines, speaking her heart. The problem is that life's not much of a movie, and Francine isn't a star -- not in her world, where her father usually tells her to "Sit down and be quiet" or "Don't get involved;" her mother usually says "That's enough, Francine Louise," and "Take care of Artie," and where Sister Basil (the Rotten) smiles her mean little smile and claps her hands and makes her life very, very miserable.

Sister Basil and the other nuns at All Saints know that Francine's a good girl. Maybe she's not as perfect as The Perfect and Admirable Mary Agnes Malone, but she's a quiet, "pink" and has freckles, and doesn't want to get into trouble, so that's what counts. Everyone can predict Francine's every move - until Sophie Bowman from the neighborhood transfers into her class at All Saints. Suddenly nobody can predict anything, even the state of the world. The Russians develop nuclear capabilities, the newspapers talk about Communist sympathizers and Francine begins to worry about the bomb and free speech. As the world changes from a place where she can be quiet and complaisant, Francine is forced to examine her views. Then, The Loud Silence of Francine Green comes to an end.

A really interesting read about life in the McCarthy era and the Red Scare from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old.

1 comment:

a. fortis said...

I was wondering about this one--saw it in the library but hadn't gotten around to checking it out yet. I enjoyed The Midwife's Apprentice, but this one seems very different.