The Confusion of Languages, Siobhan Fallon: Book Review

Siobhan Fallon charters embassy life in her newest work.

confusion of languages siobhan fallon book reviewPutnam / Victoria Akbik
The Confusion of Languages Book Cover The Confusion of Languages
Siobhan Fallon
Adult Fiction

A searing debut novel from the award-winning author of You Know When the Men are Gone, about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that's about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie's become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret's toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie's boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn't Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret's apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend's whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret's disappearance.

With achingly honest prose and riveting characters, The Confusion of Languages plunges readers into a shattering collision between two women and two worlds, affirming Siobhan Fallon as a powerful voice in American fiction and a storyteller not to be missed.

This review contains quotes from the novel.

*Special thanks to Putnam for allowing us to read Siobhan Fallon’s The Confusion of Languages.

With The Confusion of LanguagesSiobhan Fallon writes a touching novel about what it is like when a military family has to move to another country and rely on people they barely know to understand foreign customs.

This story is told from the perspectives of Margaret Brickshaw and Cassie Hugo. Margaret, her soldier husband and son all arrive at Amman, Jordan at the U.S. Embassy because her husband was sent there for a job. As locals, Cassie and her husband decide to show the Brickshaws the ropes of their new life. Aside from their connection with both Cassie and Margaret being wives to men in at the embassy, they are not so alike.

Having already lived at the embassy for two years, Cassie has acclimated to the way of the location; Margaret, on the other hand, just wants to explore her new surroundings and not be reminded of her old life. Cassie has tried and even warned Margaret about the relationships shared between men and women in foreign lands are much different than what she understands in America, and this could lead to trouble. Of course, Margaret doesn’t exactly listen to Cassie’s warnings and does whatever she wants.

“Everything else is behind us, and I’ll try to make everything right. I can do anything with Crick beside me. You know when it’s quiet and dark and still and you can’t help but squint your eyes and look at the stars? Well that was me, sitting for so long, looking up, waiting for something to shoot across my night sky. And along came Crick, drawing me into his mighty constellation, and now there are three of us here with too many wondrous stars above for me to even begin to count.”

-excerpt from Margaret in Siobhan Fallon’s The Confusion of Languages

One day Margaret is sent to the police station after her involvement in a fender-bender. Because of this, Cassie opts to look after Margaret’s child until she gets back, but Cassie begins to sense that something has gone awry when she realizes Margaret does not answer her phone and has been gone for a while longer than expected for a fender-bender incident. So Cassie starts to snoop around Margaret’s apartment in search of any clues, and finds Margaret’s diary that holds many secrets about her past and her marriage. Then Cassie reads a diary entry from that day saying: “I MUST FIND HIM. I MUST MAKE IT RIGHT.” So now Cassie must find her to solve whatever is going on.

Cassie discovers that Margaret may be having an affair because the note says that she needs to meet him to make it right. So now Cassie wants to confront Margaret about it but doesn’t know how to because Margaret has been gone for most of the day. Margaret and Cassie were never close, so Cassie knows that Margaret would never tell her something so personal. But they have been living near each for a few years, and Cassie did feel like something was off with her. Cassie plans on either confronting Margaret about the mystery man or figuring it out herself.

This novel was so insightful in what it is like to live in a foreign country. This novel also had a suspenseful element to it because of Margaret’s secret life that Cassie was unfolding. Fallon did a nice job with having the narrative set in only a one day span; this made the reading more interesting. I recommend this to anyone who likes a novel that will keep you on your toes.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a junior in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate from journalism school.