Book Review: Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliott


I don’t really remember what prompted me to request this book via net-galley. It has an ordinary cover, an ordinary blurb, and I hadn’t heard of the author. All I know now is, I’m certainly happy I did, because there is nothing ordinary about Whispers through a Megaphone.

Miriam has decided it’s high time she starts her life afresh, and goes out into the world. There, she meets the ‘hero’ of the book, Ralph. Ralph (whose surname is rather unfortunately Swoon) has had a bit of a mental breakdown himself. He’s left his wife and family behind and is living in a shed in the woods with a cat.

Can these two hurting misfits help each other heal enough to become what most of us would consider to be functioning members of society?

Whispers is a quirky piece. (Yes, I’m using that quirky word which sometimes makes me shudder, because it’s a term that is bandied around just too much.)

Its leading lady, the lovely Miriam, is an adorable quirky character whose life up to the novel’s opening has been an extremely sad tale. One of abuse and isolation and compulsive behaviour. In fact, if this was a thriller, Miriam’s background would make her a prime candidate to be the next female literary serial killer. Instead, she’s one of the funniest sweetest characters I’ve ever had the privilege to read.

Elliott handles Miriam’s plot, characterisation, and all her related idiosyncrasies with the subtlest of touches. Each time I learnt something new about Miriam’s life, I found it extremely disturbing, (I definitely don’t want to think about them again by listing them or offering spoilers) but from the way they’re presented, and the impeccable timing that they’re introduced by Elliott, I never felt tempted to file this book under the ‘depressing’ tag. I’m in awe of Elliott’s skill in making Miriam, and the book as a whole, so heartwarming and upbeat considering some of the content.

The book has a cast of colourful supporting characters including Ralph’s wife, the addicted-to-Twitter Sadie, who I wanted to hate but couldn’t find the heart to do so; Miriam’s handyman neighbour, Boo; Ralph’s sons; Ralph’s first love; and the mysterious kids delivering inspirational postcards to Miriam.

The book is a brilliant piece of literature, touching on an array of themes without getting bogged down in giving us a lecture or heralding its own importance.

If I was a rich film producer I’d snap up the rights to this novel. In fact, I desperately want someone to film it now. Playing Miriam could be a BAFTA winning role. And I’ve already cast Ralph in my mind (I thought of Kevin Doyle from Downton Abbey the entire time I read).

Whispers through a Megaphone deserves to become a buzz book of the year. Highly recommend. 5/5


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