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"Clare Azzopardi's Castillo is as complex as each individual reader may make of a writerly novel. Not only its themes, but also plot lines sometimes overlap in a way that might make it appear fragmentary to some, but amazingly skilful to others. It may be approached from various angles - its plot's schema, its psychological portrayal and relationships, of mainly familial characters, its study of motherhood, the correlation between Cathy's stories and the background and timespan the novel is set in, etc." Maria Grech Ganado


Merlin Publishers


National Book Prize - finalist


Pierre Portelli (cover)


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“Castillo” — The Habit of Silence

Review by
Noel Tanti
Silence is a foreign language. We all speak it but it’s so hard to explain.

Imagine sitting next to a loved one, on a bench on top of the world, overlooking fields and trees and sporadic buildings, with a faint glimpse of the sea far, far away, and not saying a single word. Not because you don’t have anything to talk about but because you don’t have to.

Now imagine the self-same scenario, but remove the loved one and replace him or her with someone else, someone whose silence is filled with reticence, reluctance, secrecy. That quiet eloquence immediately dissolves into a murky puddle of ambiguity, confounding you as to what constitutes an appropriate response: fight or flight? Speak up or respond in kind?

Amanda, the main character in *Castillo*, Clare Azzopardi’s debut novel for adults, finds herself faced with such a conundrum. Having been abandoned by her mother as a little girl, she was then left under the care of her father, whose taciturnity about matters concerning his wife further compounded the confusion. Now, married and with a young daughter, Amanda goes on a quest to find out what she can about her deceased aunt, novelist Cathy Penza, her mother’s twin sister.

Many of the characters in *Castillo*make it a habit of living in silence. There are long dialogues in the novel which tell us exactly nothing, a barrage of tos and fros that lead exactly nowhere. This is extremely frustrating for Amanda because she is confronted at every turn with an impenetrable wall of silence. She looks for people who do not want to be found, people who do not want to speak to her, and this prompts her to look for meaning (and answers) in spaces that lie outside of speech.

Interview at the MMLF

Claudia Gauci interviews Clare Azzopardi at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, 2018