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In 1637 two Portuguese missionaries undertake a perilous search for their Jesuit tutor missing on the hostile islands of Japan. The Shogun and his Samurai have purged the land of Western influence, rooting out Christians and subjecting them to a fate worse than death - torture until they renounce the word of God. Father Rodrigues knows that if they are discovered, they face the same brutal treatment as the persecuted Christian peasantry; the same mistreatment that - if the rumours are to be believed - caused their tutor to renounce his faith. The deeper Rodrigues journeys into Japan, the closer he comes to the truth, and the more he finds himself questioning the meaning of God's silence in answer to their prayers and to the suffering of the Japanese Christians.

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