A Map of the Damage
Tobin has created a scintillating novel of smoke and mirrors set in the glass-loaded Mirrormakers Club in London. Two narratives weave around each other and unfold in the novel. In 1940s Blitz-torn London, Livy Baker has lost her memory in a bomb blast and takes refuge in the damaged and fragile Mirrormakers Club. She navigates her relationships with the architect Christian Taylor, who seems to know her, and the wealthy club member, Jonathan Kinsburg, who asks Livy to comb the club’s archives in search of a missing family diamond. In the 1840s, rich socialite Charlotte Kinsburg is oppressed by her controlling husband, Ashton, and as The Mirrormakers Club is under construction she discovers an empathy with its architect, Henry Dale-Collingwood.
Livy is fascinated by the portrait of Charlotte wearing the diamond that hangs in the club. Like Saint Paul’s Cathedral, The Mirrormakers Club precariously survives night after night of bomb attacks. During one night of explosions and building collapses, a skeleton is partially uncovered in the foundations of the club.
This is a deliciously told mystery and a riveting tale of an illicit Victorian love affair. Tobin’s writing on the subtle interplay of emotions between her characters, such as Charlotte’s relationship with her husband and with her children, is especially strong. The novel vividly confronts us with the physical damage of the Blitz and makes us alive to the emotional damage we are capable of inflicting upon one another. Highly recommended.