Unspeakable : The Things We Cannot Say

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'Compassionate' Guardian
'Extremely affecting' Scotsman

As a teenager, Harriet Shawcross stopped speaking at school for almost a year. As an adult, she became fascinated by the limits of language.

From the inexpressible trauma of trench warfare and the aftermath of natural disaster to the taboo of coming out, Harriet examines all the ways in which words scare us. She studies wartime poet George Oppen, interviews the author of The Vagina Monologues, meets Nepalese earthquake-survivors and the founders of the Samaritans and asks what makes us silent?
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 21mm | 236g
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 1786890070
  • 9781786890078

Review quote

A personal study of silence . . . As a teenager, Harriet Shawcross stopped speaking for a year. Her attempt to make sense of that experience investigates the essence of language itself . . . Part memoir, part investigative journalism, Unspeakable is a deeply felt attempt at making sense of this period in her life, and of how others manage when words fail them . . . [A] compassionate book * * Guardian * * Extremely affecting . . . Shawcross writes eloquently . . . Caring, inquisitive -- Stuart Kelly * * Scotsman * * Elegant . . . Shawcross can certainly write * * Observer * * Shawcross has set herself the challenge of exploring these wordless moments in order to examine how silence moulds our personalities and shapes our lives . . . A compelling idea . . . well-told and engaging * * Mail on Sunday * * There is a lot of fascinating material here, from meeting an artist who turned speechlessness into a six-month project . . . to the story of George Oppen, the objectivist poet who ceased writing amid the McCarthyist churn of postwar America * * Sunday Times * * The things we find 'unspeakable' are the subject of Harriet Shawcross's fascinating book * * Daily Mail * * What a fascinating subject to have been chosen by a journalist . . . The book as it stands is a pleasure to read, choosing to take the reader towards an examination of the power, both positive and perilous, of silence * * Evening Gazette * * Explores what makes us silent, from the aftermath of natural disaster to the taboo of coming out. A heady mix of memoir, history, literary criticism and journalism * * Sunday Post * * Shawcross looks at the ways in which breaking a silence can be healing . . . Unspeakable is engaging and informative . . . Thought-provoking * * Saturday Paper * *
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About Harriet Shawcross

Harriet Shawcross is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist. She obtained an MA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and was shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize. Unspeakable is her first book.
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