The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser
Many reviews describe The Mirror as a horror book. I must admit that I can’t see it as such, though do concede that some of the events therein are certainly not desirable. I suspect that the horror label is more to do with previous books the author has written.
The premise of The Mirror is simple – a mirror acts as a time portal and selectively throws people, not of their own choosing, into the past or future. The book revolves around two such affected characters, Brandy and Shay, who are grandmother and granddaughter respectively and who swap temporal positions on the eve of their weddings. This calls to mind the grandfather paradox…
The Mirror is written in three sections, each told, allegedly, from the perspective of the grandchild (Shay), the mother (Rachael) and then the grandmother (Brandy). However, there is very little interplay between the characters and / or events which I felt to be a hugely missed opportunity.
Indeed, the sectioning of the characters was somewhat moot as the novel was written more or less in chronological order and showed no overlaps or time loops.
The author kept alive the idea that the person who had travelled through time was trapped in the body of someone else. This was done by describing the body as a third person, for example, “Shay gave Brandy an apple to eat.” This was a very powerful technique, and one which helped to see events through not only the eyes, but also the feelings of the main character.
I found the novel quite a ‘feminine’ book with a lot of detail regarding period pains and discomfort etc.. It was certainly a heads-up to me of how few books I’ve read by female authors (not of deliberate choosing, but just the way it’s turned out!).
The Time Travel Element
The time travel machine is a mirror, and there is no indication of how it works – it is black box…albeit very reflective! 😉
Although how the mirror functions remains a mystery, it was a nice touch that there were symptomatic descriptions given, for example, electric tingling, etc.. There were also references, though brief, of momentary glimpses of the past or future in the mirror’s image. I’d liked to have seen more significance given to these images.
Shay did not spend long in confusion over her situation when she was thrown back in time to that of her grandmother. Much of the story describes events which occur in the new time frame, and at times I found this quite tedious. It didn’t seem to add anything to the plot, and seemed to be there almost for the sake of it.
Actually, the plot line remained somewhat of a mystery to me. I thought it might have been a quest for Shay to get back to her original time, but her efforts to do so were given no more attention than the mundane goings-on in her new found life style.
Perhaps these involvements in everyday life added depth to the character; by the end of the section I felt I knew the character fairly well. There were also nice little comments in italics which showed what Shay was thinking, and this often harked back to her own time and showed the juxta-positioning of the time lines.
One particularly irksome angle of the Shay timeline was reading dialogue from Thora K. Thora speaks with a regional Cornish accent and this is delivered to the reader through phonetic writing. I found it really tiresome to read and at times needed to read the syllables out loud to be able to understand what the author was trying to get her character to say. I’d have preferred to have ‘invented’ the accent in my own head, after knowing that Thora spoke in such an accent.
Rachael is an interesting link in terms her peculiar biology; her mother is her future daughter, and her daughter goes on to become her grandmother. Sadly, this was not really developed into anything particularly worth of note. It is only towards the end of the last section that Rachael starts to piece together what had happened, and even then I thought it was dealt with weakly.
Brandy was a delightful character. This surprised me as I was expecting to be bored to tears with old fashioned ideas and morals being out of place in the modern world. In contrast, it was a refreshing insight into our modern world see though the eyes of a girl.
Brandy seemed to adapt to her new temporal surroundings a lot quicker than her grand daughter did. I don’t know if this was because a modern way of life is ‘easier’ than an outdated one, or whether it was simply a difference in character.
I was very interested to know what was going to happen when Shay living in Brandy’s body was going to meet herself when she was born as a child.
The moment happened very quickly, and was over in a paragraph. OK then.
There was hint of a recovery when Rachael began to catch on to what had happened – ironically this was quite a drudge to read through given that it was at the end of the book and things were coming to a close. I think it would have made much more of an impact if the truth had been realised much earlier on in the novel.
In harsh summation, I found this to be a very tedious book to get through. Yes, 2 characters swap places in their position in time, so there’s an element of time travel, but that’s about it. For the most part the reader is reading about how a girl from the modern time finds it in the past, and vice versa.
I found the story line therefore to be unclear – it was more of a drama than anything else where the reader was invited to get involved, but there is very little to keep me wanting to turn the pages
Very disappointed 🙁
My favorite book of all time, Once begun, had to read straight through, difinate re read LOVED this book enough to reccommend to others authors other books were not worth my reading time
Hi Donna, Many thanks for your thoughts! The Mirror certainly has picked up many very positive reviews, and I think that raised my expectations of it (as was also the case with Jack Finney’s “Time and Again”). Perhaps this was the problem, and I should have read the book from an open mind at the outset.
I think ultimately I was disappointed that the time travel part wasn’t dominant, and where there was potential for it, it was pretty much looked over. Maybe you’re right though, and it might be worth a re-read!
One of my favorite books! I read in the 1980’s and have reread it a few times since then. I had a hardback copy of the book for years, when my house burned down in 2016, this is one of the few books that I actually replaced.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, truly one of my favorites that re-read often. Wondering if this will be a movie? Thank you for your time.