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14 Reviews
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice Escape, June 25 2004
By 
Michael J. Armijo (Marina Del Rey, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
This is a very well-rounded story that takes you back in time.
It's another time & place in South Africa with a young girl trying to 'find herself'. This young girl becomes a woman and sees the mirror of herself in her own daughter. History clearly repeats. Growth and renewal comes out of this story of relationships. It is a lovely story and a quick read. There are some wonderful lines...very well written...a nice escape as any reader will recognize people and thoughts (in our current every day lives).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to believe this is not a true story, Sept. 23 2003
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
California writer Lynn Freed spins the tale of Agnes La Grange, a plucky young Englishwoman who has immigrated to So. Africa after WWI. The greatest pleasure of this book is engrossing yourself in Agnes's desires: she wants to experience adventure and passion without feeling she's being dominated by a man. Remember, this was the Edwardian era, when women were given more to fits of the vapors that to fits of passion. It's a pleasure to read along as Agnes struggles not to succumb to the mores of her time.
As author Freed grew up in South Africa, her book is all the more compelling for its presumed accuracy. At least, it feels accurate, a sense lent credence by the photographs which are included.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Quick but Poignant Read, April 29 2002
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This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
The Mirror is a snapshot of a life, a look at the journey that takes Agnes La Grange from servant to self-made woman. Using her intelligence as well as her beauty, Agnes makes a life for herself in South Africa from almost nothing. She is a flawed protagonist, at times selfish and foolish, but the novel is enriched by Agnes' imperfections. The Mirror speaks eloquently of a woman's struggle between family and self, between convention and desire. In a way, the book leaves one sad at its conclusion -- it's not as much an escape from reality as it is a reflection of the sometimes unattractive side of human relationships. A thoughtful and provocative read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A woman's coming of age..., April 19 2002
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
This is a fascinating story of a liberated woman's coming of age in a time when few women dared to be indepedent, much less sexually daring. The writing is quite beautiful, poetic even, and flows like a river. A mesmerizing, well-written story. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Freed's other novels!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put It Down, June 16 2001
By 
Jennifer W Lee (Seoul Korea (South)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
It is a very fine novel about a woman living a life that she has chosen. While reading I was looking at myself through "The Mirror". The photos in this book were so right with the story. It is so sad though. I guess it is hard being a woman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED STORY - SHEER PLEASURE!, Oct. 5 2000
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mirror (Hardcover)
Audacious and self-absorbed, the woman we meet in Lynn Freed 's deliciously bold third novel, The Mirror, is an anomaly in 1920's South Africa. Agnes La Grange, as she has chosen to call herself, would be an exception wherever she lived. An author of extraordinary talent, Ms. Freed pulled no punches in Home Ground, a previous work based on her childhood in South Africa. Candor has been her hallmark, and now she evidences courage in presenting an unsympathetic protagonist . However, the gifted Ms. Freed infuses this fascinating, earthy figure with such joie de vivre and resolute determination that Agnes wins us over.
Relating her story in diary form, spanning 66 years, Agnes is as unsparing of herself as she is of others. After immigrating to South Africa from England, she finds work as a housekeeper for the Moskowitz family, an older man, his dying wife and Sarah, their youngest daughter.
"I came into that house of sickness just after the Great War, as a girl of seventeen," her 1920 notation begins. A mirror, the gift of her employer, is pivotal. "...For the first time," she writes, "I could look at myself all at once, and there I was, tall and beautiful....After that, there was never a place where I didn't have a mirror. It was fixed in me, this way of considering myself. I couldn't do without it."
Beauty is empowerment as she embarks upon the singular pursuit of a future she cannot define. Pleasure is taken where she finds it, even in a menage a trois with sailors whose names she does not ask.
Finding her way in the world with a skewed moral compass, Agnes is an indifferent parent, describing motherhood as "another form of service." Invited to church, Agnes thinks, "It was a long way I'd come from being frightened half out of my wits by the men of God, and I wasn't going back."
Little made Agnes turn back. Confident and self-possessed, not even becoming pregnant by her employer stays her relentless pursuit of an independent, amorphous tomorrow. In fact, the birth of her illegitimate daughter, Leah, provides her with funds to buy the Railway Hotel where she acquires a newspaperman husband who dotes on the child.
Nonetheless, she continues to be restless, searching, cavalierly discarding opportunities for security. She takes several lovers, a hunter beloved by one of her few friends, a tycoon who gives her lessons in grooming and deportment, as well as a "trader from Mozambique, with not one word of English."
Assisted by the tycoon, she purchases a more luxurious hotel. Now, she no longer stands in the stalls at the race course, but sits in a box sipping champagne. Yet, when she is befriended by a society woman and introduced to the privileged existence she had sought, Agnes views it as empty, writing, "Here was a woman wasted if ever there was one with poker on a Wednesday afternoon, and the races every Saturday, and a fuss when no one would take her dinner dancing...All her passion was wasted, her power too." After time among the wealthy, Agnes is eager to return to her own hotel, where she can plan menus, and has "who knew what to look forward to in the future?"
Ties to her former employer's world are reestablished when Leah, who has demonstrated a gift for singing, enters the eistedfodd (a vocal competition), adjudicated by Sarah Moskowitz. Bewitched by the child, Sarah begins to tutor her, and soon learns that Leah is her half sister. A tug-of-war for the child's heart and future begins.
Leah leaves her mother's hotel to live with Sarah and her husband, with whom Leah falls in love. Despite Agnes's warnings that he's "a tailor's dummy, if there ever was one, a fancy man, any woman's fool," Leah becomes pregnant with his child. As the circle comes round, it seems that Agnes will not realize her aspirations but they may become manifest in Bess, the grandaughter Leah signs over to her.
A final diary entry is made in 1986. Agnes is now an old woman, "thick in the hips and the ankles, and the skin dry as tissue paper. I walk with a stick...." At the end, as in the beginning, she walks proudly but alone, with "no need to ask any more what lay ahead."
What a remarkable gift Lynn Freed has given us in this beautifully crafted story. The Mirror is sheer pleasure to read; Agnes is an unforgettable woman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book about a fascinating place, April 14 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mirror (Hardcover)
I couldn't put The Mirror down until I was completely finished. My book club selected it for the April reading, after being suggested by a Houston bookseller. It's a very sexy story, and perhaps a bit much for a reader who may be easily shocked.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson in the strength of VOICE, Sept. 11 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
Lynn Freed's THE MIRROR is a book that I have come back to as a writer (more later). As a reader, the book was intensely satisfying, passionate, and the character strong-willed, feminist, and flawed in the most human of ways. But I return again and again because of Freed's mastery of voice. It is this mastery that makes this book more than a novel to me but a teacher in and of itself. What holds us more than story? Voice. Freed dazzles. She is right on, exacting, pure gem. Savor it as both reader AND writer. Her skill is rare.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great! Many authors could learn from Lynn Freed!, July 13 1999
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
Succinct and compelling, The Mirror delves into the life of a young woman who makes no excuses, no apologies for her behavior and desires. This confident protagonist seems to tell her own story with sublime objectivity. No chance for the reader to get bored, this novel is void of excessive details just as one expects Agnes' life to be. Freed guides the reader through another time, another place as Agnes displays behavior more modern than many people "alive" today.
The author's language cleverly elevates the stature of her character. Women are mentioned by name. Men, unless servants, are not named but referred to by their careers or by a personality trait. I read The Mirror immediately after Mother of Pearl and found The Mirror very refreshing. It lacks degrading references found in Mother of Pearl. Freed appropriately refers to "breasts," not "tits" as Hayne does in her novel. Women authors could do well to avoid frequent use of lingo that does not support the integrity of the protagonist.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lacks a certain flow., April 11 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mirror (Paperback)
This story was not as compelling as the reviews I read, but it was enjoyable none-the-less. Agnes LaGrange is an incredibly independent, fiesty, passionate (in many senses), forthright, and bold woman - someone to admire in the late 90's let alone the early part of the century. She holds very little back when it comes to opinions and physical flirtations. She usually gets what she wants whether it is from a husband, lover, friend, or family member. In some parts I found the writing confusing and had to re-read passages...the flow wasn't clear and I wasn't sure which character was being discussed. The presentation of the book's physical layout itself was interesting, in fact, that's what drew me to it in the first place. I'd recommend this story to a fellow reader with the comment that it was good, but not memorable.
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The Mirror
The Mirror by Lynn Freed (Paperback - Jan. 9 1999)
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