Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began before her birth, and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood. Tamara visits her mother for the last time, accompanied by a chorus of ancestors who reveal the struggles, joys and secrets of women’s lives that echo through her own.
THE SOUND MIRROR spans three generations and thousands of miles; it is an examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives and intimately rendered characters.
This novel was stunning even if I wasn’t quite sure at the start where it was going to take me. Yet that was what The Sound Mirror was all about, it was a journey into the past of three very different women of differing generations.
Tamara, present day, rushing to ‘kill’ her mother. Was she going to murder her, or was it a metaphor for something else hitherto unknown until James slowly unwrapped Tamara, a past blighted by a rollercoaster mother daughter relationship. I oozed empathy for her as Hall described her mother’s teen pregnancy, the unwillingness to be tethered by motherhood, by a child who stopped her life, got in the way.
How would Tamara reconcile that past with the present, could she forgive, move on, find fulfilment and peace in her future?
Clara, was my favourite, our post war woman, who fell foul of a pregnancy out of wedlock. Ostarcished by her family I admired her determination to make it work. A woman who didn’t want to mirror her own mother, constantly pregnant as she wrestled with umpteen children and the drudgery of domesticity. Was Clara any different as she herself produced baby after baby? To me yes, as she embraced it, loved with everything she had, a husband who was loving and caring. You revelled in her wonder at her life until the cracks began to appear, and the love she had so freely given left her bereft, washed out. As the children fledged what was left for her, what would she do? Was motherhood all she was about, as Hall depicted a spiral into depression and sorrow.
Ada, was so very different from Tamara and Clare. She was the young immigrant girl from post colonial India, multi racial, looked upon with scorn and derision as her family attempted a new life in London. I loved her intelligence, her want to go to University, yet had to settle for a secretarial colleges and a lowly admin job. Hall gave glimpses of a woman who was more than a match for any man within business, her acumen treated with jealously and a threat to the male environment she wished to penetrate. As she settled into marriage and motherhood, you saw it was never enough as she desired more, took risks before jealousy, resentment bitterness and snobbishness emerged.
Hall opened the reader up to so many questions, the history of women’s place in society, the attitudes not just of men but also the women themselves. You felt grateful for the freedoms we have today, no longer suppressed or belittled, pushed into a home life that they either resented or embraced with everything they had.
Whilst I loved that Hall provoked the reader i also admired her ability to retain the essence of a novel, the brilliant skill she had in telling a story. Each woman had their own distinct voice, their emotional struggles that made me feel everything from empathy to frustration. I continually searched for a missing link that bound them together, and when it arrived it all made perfect sense, gave answers to behaviours to events.
It completed a circle, as each woman found some form of peace, of acceptance of their past and a glimmer of a better future for one
A stunning novel that I loved from the first to the last page. Thank you Heidi James.
I would like to thank Bluemoose Books for a copy of The Sound Mirror to read and review.
About the author
Heidi James lives in London and lectures at Kingston University. Her poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in numerous publications including, Mslexia, Galley Beggar Press and Dazed & Confused.