Book Review – The Silence of the Lambs


A couple of months ago, I was woken up by a low hum of thunder and a hushing rain: the perfect day for reading. Remarkably, I had two free periods in the morning to sit in the library and crawl into a book. So as I was leaving my house, I ran to my bookshelf and quickly scanned the spines of my books. Most of them seemed timid and unfriendly–except for one. I eyed the blue book, dressed in golden writing that read, The Silence of the Lambs.

Ever since I first laid eyes on this book years ago, my mother warned me not to read it because of how horrifying she found it. It was one of the scariest novels she had ever read, she would tell me repeatedly.  She placed it on the top of the bookshelf, out of my reach, and told me never to read it. 

The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris, is a horror novel about a police investigation involving a psycho serial murderer and a cannibal. It was natural for my mother to veer me away from reading this.  For years, the golden writing on the cover mocked me through the dust on the bookshelf. Despite my inherent rebellious nature, I obeyed this one order and never touched the book, no matter how tempted I was– I could never reach it anyway. Not until now. 

Perhaps it was the chill of the morning, or perhaps I was feeling particularly unruly that day, but I felt that it was time for me to read this novel. I  slid the book out from its home on the shelf and brought it with me to school. 

Serenaded by the rain and embraced by the carpet of the school library, I began this novel. By the first chapter, I was instantly captivated. It was truly–even though I hate this word–a page-turner. I was anticipating a horror novel that would leave me traumatized, but to my surprise, I was met with quite an enjoyable novel. I finished this book within a few days. 

Set in the 1980s, the novel follows the main character Clarice Starling, a determined police trainee, who operates in a male-driven field. Clarice and her superior are trying to track down a serial murderer named Buffalo Bill, who kills women, skins them, and dumps their bodies in rivers. To help catch Buffalo Bill, Clarice interacts with an intelligent and horrifying cannibal named Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He was a renowned psychiatrist who eventually began to murder his patients and eat them. Despite this, he is terrifyingly intelligent, and Clarice needs his knowledge to track down Buffalo Bill, even if it is at the expense of her own safety. Harris takes the reader along with an engaging plot, establishing unexpectedly tender relationships between different characters. The readers will quickly find themselves confiding in the protagonist, as well as becoming equally disturbed by and bewildered by the cannibal/serial killer/psychiatrist: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. 

Although I did thoroughly enjoy this novel, it was not as scary as I had anticipated it would be. As the book dangled out of my reach for years, the suspense grew, leading me to inevitably be somewhat disappointed once I got my hands on the novel. I was expecting something piercingly terrifying, something that would repel me from dark hallways and provoke sleep with my lights on. While The Silence of the Lambs did not necessarily deliver that to me, it was still deeply gruesome and. Due to Harris’ brilliant writing and the vulgar premise of the novel, I felt equally as intrigued as I was horrified to turn each page and unravel the story. Harris did not exercise the bloodiest and loudest images to instill fear in his readers; he developed quiet images, that he wove between carefully chosen words, that caused a gradual but deeply chilling effect. 

While I do believe that some characters were robbed of further development and that the novel lacked some complexity in both the diction and plot, I still truly enjoyed this read. The pacing was great, the characters were intriguing, and the premise of the novel was captivating. However, beyond the content of this novel, it was significant to me because it marked a critical benchmark in my life: being old enough to ignore my parent’s orders. The golden writing no longer taunted me and my mother’s word that I so strictly adhered to, evaporated into the thick pages of The Silence of The Lambs.