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.
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.
This heroine is intense and passionate, living most of all for the men & sexual relations that make her feel most alive. She creates herself, inventing a past and even her surname, winning wealth through her shewdness but not allowing it to become her idol. What is her idol? Perhaps the one man she can't fully have or perhaps her own beauty and insistence on freedom... By the end of the book she has gone from young girl to old woman, remembering a life immensely successful in some ways, yet bitter and perhaps emotionally crippled too...a life that, like all lives seen closeup, is difficult to evaluate--as ambiguous as it is clear, as emotionally empty perhaps as it is passionate. She leaves England as a poor young woman with all her money hidden in a purse she wears around her neck. She never gives that purse up either really or symbolically. It's the emblem of her commitment never to lose herself in a compromise with the world--a commitment that is both her strength and her tragic limitation. Perhaps, having started her rise to wealth as a housemaid, she is in constant fear of a return to servitude in her relationships with others. But there are many ways to see her, and each reader will find his or her own. Every woman with a drive for independence will find this book fascinating--at times horrifying. THE MIRROR is breathtaking at moments in its portrayal of the cruelty, the possessiveness, and the love that blaze through human relationships, particularly the mother-daughter relationship. It is intense, fast-moving, fascinating and thoroughly convincing from the first line to the last. Magnificent.
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!