Book Review: The Sound Mirror, by Heidi James

All the knowing and wisdom, the habits and curses. Superstitions and protections, charms and jinxes.

The Sound Mirror

“She is going to kill her mother today.”

I’ll be honest, I read the opening sentence and considered putting the book straight back down again. I had just finished another book that focussed on complicated mother-daughter relationships and I wasn’t sure I was ready for another, but, by Page 10, Heidi James had me enthralled in such lovely language that I couldn’t help but stay.

It is said, she was told, that if a pregnant woman gazed at the Himalayas and wished for a beautiful child, it would be so. But now she is far from the mountains, thousands of sea miles from her ayah, from the crumbling brick of the bungalow where spiders hang like Christmas ornaments, far from the furious heat of the summer and pure wet of the monsoon, peacock blue and elephant grey, dust and cow dung, the mean hunch of vultures, tea cups and pearl inlays, the smell of engine oil and burning sugar, ghee and sandalwood…

The Sound Mirror

Is that not one of the loveliest things you have ever read? I could have lost myself in such beautifully long and descriptive sentences that flow throughout the novel. So gorgeous, I felt transported away.

But, wait, what is it about?

The Sound Mirror has three narratives: Tamara, Claire and Ada. Three different generations of women each with their own journeys and challenges. All three narratives are hard to read at times; the women face harsh men, tough choices and a lot of loneliness. Tamara is on her way to “kill” her mother and, as she drives, their complicated and sometimes abusive story unfolds. Claire found herself pregnant before she was married and was made to leave home by her father: she loves her children but struggles with what her life has become. Ada came to England from India. Experiencing racism and sexism, she marries a man and finds out very soon that marriage isn’t what she thought it would be. The plot is so full of detail and sometimes the most normal and everyday things are so imaginatively captured.

I’m also trying very hard not to give anything away because there are so many surprises!

It is a hard book to read, there is no getting away from that. It depicts incidents of racism, violence and abuse. Each of the characters also have moments where I found them intensely unlikeable. But there’s also such strong flashes of love and passion. And Heidi James’ use of language, as I’ve said, makes the book so extraordinary to read.

Holding hands they dig their toes into the pebbles and climb up the bank. The shingle shifts, tips and rolls under them, inching them back as they struggle forward. At the top they turn to see the others in miniature, still sat behind the windbreak in their deckchairs drinking tea. The sea has been dragged out, as if trapped by its own tide. Today has been a brilliant day.

The Sound Mirror

One of the other things I love about this book is that it’s one that I know I will read again and see different things in it. New imagery that I missed the first time, comments that went over my head. And that’s exciting, and quite rare for me, I don’t normally want to re-read things (too many on the TBR pile).

So, I’m sorry if this was a bit of a rubbish review: there’s so much I wanted to say but I was worried it would divulge too much of the story! And, while I recommend it, I know it’s not a book for everyone because of the subject matter. But, if you can read it, I think it is incredibly well written and that it is a story that will stay with you long after you have finished it.

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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