Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

The premise of “The Silent Bride” by Shalini Boland is crazy intriguing – a bride walks into the church for her wedding but freezes when she fails to recognize her groom, the man she has been dating for over a year. Nobody else, not her family, friends, or even the groom’s side, seems to think anything is amiss. So, is the problem with the bride or some elaborate prank in play? Alice, the bride, must find out where her ‘real’ Seth is, while the fake one has everybody convinced that he is the real deal.

“The Silent Bride” isn’t the kind of novel I usually read, but the premise sounded fascinating, and all the drama in the story held my interest until the end. I did not really like protagonist Alice much; she is one of those people who fail to read red flags and end up surrounded by people who don’t seem to have their best interests at heart. So, even though reading the book was frustrating in parts, I’ll have to admit that all the negative tinged drama and bitchiness through the chapters was quite fun – if you can distance yourself from the experiences and be entertained.

One of the biggest reasons I really enjoyed reading “The Silent Bride” is the fact that I’ve been struggling to find standalone fictional novels that sustain my interest beyond a few pages. I’ve only been reading graphic novels the last few months, making me seriously wonder if I no longer have the stamina/patience for long-form fiction. So, the fact that Shalini Boland’s writing kept me interested until the end has restored my confidence about text-only stories. Her writing style, which is simple, smooth, colloquial, without frills and easy to read. 

Readers are introduced to protagonist Alice as an excited bride getting ready to walk down the aisle with her father. Written in first person, most of the novel is narrated in Alice’s voice and she expresses explicit joy over being dressed in bridal grandeur and getting to marry Seth, a successful handsome doctor, Alice ensures she emphasises on the word “handsome” a bunch of times to confirm his physical attractiveness. But through the almost 300 pages, we never learn more about the handsome doctor, except for the fact that he is good looking and a very very very busy doctor. Alice on the other hand is a hardworking ambitious accountant, hoping to become a partner at her small firm. He literally meets her parents only once before their marriage, and some of her friends tease her about having an imaginary boyfriend. As a reader, you begin to think about the same possibility too! Alice begins to question her sanity, as almost everybody around her implies that she must have cooked up the story about not recognizing her husband-to-be to get out of tying the knot.

“The Silent Bride” doesn’t unfold chronologically and the chapters alternate between the present and the past, so while the first chapter is set on Alice’s wedding day, the next chapter goes back to the day when Seth proposed to her. This back and forth between two timelines works well for the story, as on one hand readers grapple with the protagonist’s life spiralling out of control, the past helps us understand all the other characters who Alice is close to and the possible motives someone might have to wreck her life in such a manner. Although, ironically, one begins to doubt Alice as a narrator herself, because the sheer twist about her not being able to identify her fiancé, when the rest of the world does, makes you wonder if she is cooking up this absurd tale just to wriggle out of the marriage.

Alice has significant anxiety surrounding her wedding day, which is but natural for any bride; but what bums her out most is the fact that except for one or two people, nobody seems to be genuinely happy for her big day. Only one of her close friends called Laurence, her guy best friend, is empathetic and genuinely nice to her, which is also because he is a mental health practitioner. But even their friendship hits a rough patch eventually. It made me wish for some more positive representation of platonic friendship in the tale. Although, those who fail to make lasting nurturing friendships will relate to her character.  Besides, some little plot developments were outright nonsensical. For example, Alice has a work rival who is a narcissistic maniac, and they aren’t close at all. Yet, the rival rings up Alice’s sister to self-invite herself to Alice’s hen party, and the sister gives her a nod without even informing Alice! It’s not even a surprise hen party, so why not have the basic courtesy as the “maid of honor” to call up your sister and ask her if she would be okay with her shitty colleague turning up at a weekend getaway meant for her to relax and have fun.

Alice’s parents are probably the most relatable characters in the novels, in terms of parental figures. While her father is a self-made man who is strict, authoritative and self-centered. He is the kinds of person who would put his own interests before his children’s, although I do like the fact that he keeps pushing his two daughters to be independent, self-reliant and successful career professionals. Her mother on the other hand is a more generic and genial character – a nervous sweet woman who is happy to be in the background. Anyway… Alice’s fraught relationships serve as interesting lessons on reading the signs of a problematic friendship or family tie. She introspects, investigates and even sees doctors and therapists to understand what is happening with her and why she can’t recognise Seth, the man of her dreams.

After the incredulous beginning, the novel is filled with drama and trouble, although the flashbacks do have entertaining events. The climax is tense, violent and readers finally get a rather far-fetched explanation to what really happened. But I guess, if you are going to succumb to the temptation of reading a book where the bride is the only person who cannot recognise the groom, you know any explanation is going to be absurd in scale. So, brownie points to author Shalini Boland for keeping viewers entertained till the end with this thriller, despite all its flaws and absurdities.

Rating: 3.5 on 5. “The Silent Bride” is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

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