Talking In Whispers by James Watson is a view of the Chilean revolution in the 1970’s through the eyes of 16-year-old Andres Laretta. Andres’ is having a hard time of it as his father, singer who is kidnapped by the secret police and most of his friends are also missing. Forced to run for his life, Andres comes upon twins, Isa and Beto with whom he becomes very good friends. Together, the trio set out to find Andres’ father and try to get photos of an assassination published, as an attempt to bring to light the sorry state their country is in.
The characters and relationships between them develop throughout the story, displaying many examples of conflict and co-operation. The twins, Isa and Beto were on their way to market in San Miguel to perform one of their usual puppet shows when Andres flagged them down while running from the secret police. Though at first only taken on as a hitchhiker, tragedy strikes on their chosen route as the Silver Lion, an election candidate is assassinated.
Isa decides to put Andres up for the night at the mill, from where the friendship grows.
It isn’t long before he sees the twins as his friends and considers them important in his decision making; common sense urged Andres to return to the mill and to his friends, Isa and Beto. Together they would decide what must be done… A newspaper announces Andres’ death, meaning the best thing to do is to lie low for a few weeks.
However, Andres being Andres, he insists on continuing to fight for his beliefs to the end. This proves Isa and Beto to be true friends as they agree to help him, whatever he chooses to do.
They keep their word and stick by him throughout the story in his search for his father. Together, they manage to publish Don Chailey’s photos to expose the CNI as the bloody-handed killers they are. In their quest, Andres and the twins come across many people who are on their side. Don Chailey asks Andres to publish photos for him as he is caught by the CNI. Chailey risked his life to get these photos, showing his pure courage … here also was terrible danger. The American photographer had himself been snapped by the officer commanding the troops.
The photos could prove to be crucial for the result of Chile’s future; Don Chailey’s photographs proved to be more sensational in content…. Diego Rosales, a printer, agrees to develop the photos for Andres: “I have an instinct, a feeling. Fact is friends, I’m gettig- vibrations! “. Diego is given shelter by Father Marino and was imprisoned and tortured after the overthrow of President Allende, leaving him with permanent spinal damage but not his spirit, not his humour.
The main conflict of the story is between the good people of Chile and the CNI. They do not seem to have a care in the world for the people of Chile as seen by the way that they treat them. At the beginning of the story, Horacio is shot, Juan captured and battered, told You Laretta, will pay for your lies and you’ll suffer for your songs. Andres is badly tortured for trying to withhold information about his friends. Andres’ whole body convulsed as he was hit in the stomach.
His arms blazed with agony. Electrocuted, almost to the point of destruction he is dumped on the side of a road, badly battered and bruised but escapes with help from a reluctant passer-by and his good-hearted daughter Although based on a very serious topic, Talking In Whispers contains some humour. Save the Junta time and bullets – Shoot yourself! was written on the side of a wall in Santiago. Sadly, by the way some of the Chileans were treated, they probably would have preferred to die this way.
Although the book itself is fictional, the events in the book were very much a reality. James Watson approaches the subjects cautiously and tastefully, while still exposing the brutal pain these people suffered. Human rights are still fought for in Bosnia, Indonesia and parts of China today and I know that this book has brought this to light for me, and others I am sure. He also showed the importance of friendships and relationships in the struggle for human rights as Andres depended on his to see him through. For in spite of you, tomorrow is another day…