When Historia asked acclaimed author Antonia Hodgson to review Sophia Tobin’s latest novel, there was only one problem. She’d love to do it, she said, but her copy wasn’t where she could get at it. Sophia’s publisher, like so many others during these difficult times of lockdown, was efficient and helpful and sent an ebook straight away. Sometimes things just work out perfectly…
I first read this wonderful novel several months ago, in two sittings. It’s one of those longed-for books that casts a spell on the reader – a benign spell that spirits you away to another time and place.
When I came to write this review, I thought I should dip back in to remind myself of a few details. Within moments I was transported back to 1940, and a bombed-out London street. A young woman abandons the rescue party trying to help her and sets off through the city, “feeling pushed by some superior force like a chess piece”. And off I went with her, again. Some books are irresistible.
The young woman’s name is Olivia Baker, but she doesn’t know it; she is suffering from amnesia. Somehow her feet take her to the faded grandeur of the Mirrormaker’s Club. Here Livy is drawn into two compelling mysteries – the quest for a missing diamond, and the quest for her missing self.
As Livy hunts for the truth, she is drawn back into the past. (Not literally, no wormholes in time and space here.)
Dual narratives can be tricky, but Sophia Tobin is a subtle and deft writer, shifting between the two timeframes in a seamless and satisfying way.
In 1838, Charlotte Kinsburg is caught up in a devastating carriage accident. As with Livy’s bomb explosion in 1940, this near-death experience has a shattering and profound effect.
Abandoned by her husband (who is too busy shouting at everyone responsible), Charlotte is led to safety by Henry Dale-Collingwood. Henry is an architect, working on designs for a new building: the Mirrormaker’s Club.
So these twin stories of love and betrayal interweave. There is darkness, but there is also light. Devastation and restoration. Tragedy and hope. In this perfectly paced and plotted novel, filled with intriguing and nuanced characters, Sophia Tobin never puts a foot wrong.
To say more would be to offer spoilers, and who wants to spoil a good novel? And A Map of the Damage is more than good, it is a tour de force, from a writer who deserves a wide and loyal readership.
Her next, The Silver Collar, will be published in August, 2020.