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Book Review: The Movement by Ayisha Malik

With words come power. But do you speak out or shut up? 

Everywhere Sara Javed goes – online or outside – everyone is shouting about something. Couldn’t they all just shut up? One day she takes her own advice.

At first people don’t understand her silence and are politely confused at best. But the last thing Sara could anticipate is becoming the figurehead of a global movement that splits society in two.

The Silent Movement sparks outrage in its opposers. Global structures start to shift. And the lives of those closest to Sara – as well as strangers inspired by her act – begin to unravel.

It’s time for the world to reconsider what it means to have a voice. 

There’s a lot of people I wish would shut the fuck up.

Mostly this man with the bellowing voice on the same as train as me. He’s spent the last ten minutes repeatedly phoning his mate – who I gather is somewhere in the station – informing him what platform he needs, that there is a toilet on board and that he’s going to have to run, or he’ll miss the train. 

Keith has been told 4 times now that the train is at platform nine.

Now, I don’t know who Keith is, but I assume he’s a grown man, and if he can’t his backside on a train on time then it is his own fault. Also, the entire carriage doesn’t need the running commentary.

I’ve digressed somewhat here but this incident has added meaning considering I’ve just finished reading The Movement, a book where a well-known author, Sara Javed, tired of the world’s noise, decides to shut up and that single act sparks chaos.

This book is great and entirely fitting for the modern world where everyone has an opinion, and everyone is shouting at each other online. 

I, like Sara, can see the beauty in silence; it’d be nice if people would just shut up, it would be nice to block out some of the noise now and again. I wouldn’t, however, be able to take a vow of silence, though I guess there’s plenty of people who wish I would (sorry about that).

What this book does is spark an interesting debate about what it means to have voice.

Sara’s decision to become silent, at first baffles most people; soon enough that confusion turns to anger, especially when more and more people take up similar vows and society sees a fundamental change.

Soon there are non-verbal servers in cafes, non-verbal doctors, social media usage drops massively, people spend less money, there’s an improvement in mental health. There’s plenty of cons too as, inevitably, society splits and people are pitted against each other. 

There are multiple characters laced through the story, each with their own views on the silent movement, some who’ve been inspired, others who see it as a threat.

Two characters in particular stand out; Grace and Zainab.

Grace chooses silence in an attempt to understand her young son who has always been non-verbal. 

Zainab finds her cruel and abusive husband to be kinder since he’s taken a vow of silence. She has her own reasons for being mistrustful of people’s words. Both are thrust into the spotlight of The Movement.

I loved seeing the different arguments and perspectives on the silent movement. Everyone has an opinion on how others live their lives, everyone has opinion on Sara’s decision. In fact, the only person whose opinion we don’t hear, is Sara’s. All she wants is to be left in peace.

It raises questions about whether there is more power in silence. 

Should those who have fought to have their voices heard – like women – choose to be silent or does joining The Movement undermine what we’ve fought for, the right to be heard?

The fact the main characters were all women from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, emphasised the point further; does silence adversely affect those who are already marginalised by society?

It raises questions about how we use our voice. Whether or not our words mean anything at all, are we all just banging on for the sake of it?

It throws up discussions about the right to choose. As society shifts and more people choose to be silent; power structures panic, Government’s step in, strict rules are introduced, laws passed, freedoms restricted and the right to choose taken from people. The resistance grows.

Both sides of the debate were so polarised, it felt true to the modern world. Set in the UK the silent movement completely split society down the middle, it reminded me of the Brexit debate. Malik captured that perfectly.

I was gripped by this book. I loved the idea behind it. It’s original and clever. It puts feminism at the heart of the story.

There are moments of humour, it’s a wonderful read that will really make you think – it may even make you shut the fuck up once in a while.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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