Anne Redmon (Nightingale) Robert Kiely - Essay

Robert Kiely

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

One of the pleasures of reading is discovering order and beauty in unexpected places and from unpromising materials. Two lonely women living in converted flats in an aging house in the Victoria section of London do not appear at first to be the subjects of a compelling narrative. But even before we are drawn into the characters' lives, we are captivated by Anne Redmon's gracefully nuanced and musical prose [in "Music and Silence"]. We are prepared to trust her story because we are so quickly persuaded to trust her language.

One of the principal characters, Maud, is a cellist…. Through momentary fragments of recall, bits of dialogue and some straightforward narration, Maud's life and character gradually take shape. And while repeated references to chords, variations and harmonies bind her internal life to her capacity for artistic expression, they also point to Anne Redmon's narrative method. She sounds themes and notes, weaves them together, appears to abandon them, only to circle back in new keys and tones. Near discord is continuously resolved into harmony….

[Beatrice, a physician, is] religious and compassionate, but frozen in her seeming inability to accept or offer love. When Maud's life is threatened by an insane evangelist, Beatrice forces herself to come to the younger woman's aid. Their solitudes, guilts and gifts intertwine in a counterpoint of haunting subtlety. Miss Redmon's sentences—long, supple, ambiguous—are sometimes Jamesian, but her themes are more reminiscent of Graham Greene. There is something of a thriller in this book as it gains momentum, but the issues are metaphysical, not legal. Behind the music and lovely phrasing are anguished souls in search of redemption.

Robert Kiely, "Three Novels: 'Music and Silence'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 4, 1979, p. 14.