This Nordic Council Literature Prize Winner is an austerely but elegantly written tale about secrets: the secrets wives keep from their husbands, the secrets parents keep from their children, and the repercussions of such secret-keeping. Eva and Simon are successful professionals — he a physician; she a librarian. They have three grown daughters who are privy to none of their parents’ secrets. Simon is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent the war years in a claustrophobic space, surrounded by people — much like Anne Frank’s situation. Several times he wanted to tell his children about his life, but Eva always found a reason to delay the revelation until it is too late and Simon has become aged and silent. Eva, in turn, had an illegitimate son whom she kept for several months before giving him away without a qualm. Simon and her daughters know nothing of this. Eva, now elderly and almost alone — since Simon has stopped speaking and is in care — is constantly on the lookout for a man who might be her lost son.
The secrets kept by this couple have become a gossamer fabric that separates them from each other and from the world. The liveliest character in the novel is a Latvian housekeeper who is almost part of the family, until Eva discovers an intolerable secret that the housekeeper is keeping and must let her go. A painful, yet inspiring novel, Days in the History of Silence lingers in the reader’s mind and heart and does not let go.