Wednesday 7 February 2024

A Sign Of Her Own by Sarah Marsh #ASignOfHerOwn @SarahCMarsh @TinderPress @RandomTTours #BookReview


Ellen Lark is on the verge of marriage when she and her fiancé receive an unexpected visit from Alexander Graham Bell.

Ellen knows immediately what Bell really wants from her. Ellen is deaf, and for a time was Bell's student in a technique called Visible Speech. As he instructed her in speaking, Bell also confided in her about his dream of producing a device which would transmit the human voice along a wire: the telephone. Now, on the cusp of wealth and renown, Bell wants Ellen to speak up in support of his claim to the patent to the telephone, which is being challenged by rivals.

But Ellen has a different story to tell: that of how Bell betrayed her, and other deaf pupils, in pursuit of ambition and personal gain, and cut Ellen off from a community in which she had come to feel truly at home. It is a story no one around Ellen seems to want to hear - but there may never be a more important time for her to tell it.

A Sign of Her Own by Sarah Marsh was published on 1 February 2024 by Tinder Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

A Sign of Her Own is a rich and vibrant novel that explores another side of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, narrated by fictional Ellen Lark in her own special words. 

Told in two time lines, we meet Ellen as she prepares for a meeting with her old mentor Bell. Ellen is about to be married, and Bell wants her to support him in his fight for recognition as the inventor of the telephone. However, Ellen has only bad memories about the time she was under Bell's instructions, she remembers who she and others in the deaf community were betrayed. How Bell was desperate for fame and fortune and how she and her peers became a useful plaything for him. 

The reader learns how Ellen lost her hearing due to Scarlet Fever when she was just four years old. Her mother encouraged her to use sign language; signs that they made up along the way. Whilst Ellen seemed to thrive, her paternal grandmother Adeline became convinced that she should study Visible Speech as advocated by Bell. The family were in debt to Adeline and Ellen was sent off to Bell's school whilst her mother went to England, where she re-married. 

Bell's pupils are discouraged from using sign language and must communicate using only Visible Speech, and notebooks. Whilst Ellen does learn quickly, she's a bright and astute young woman who soon becomes unsure of Bell and his methods. Ellen feels vulnerable in the hearing world and when she meets Frank McKinney, a deaf man, her worries are confirmed. 

Marsh takes the reader back and forth throughout the novel, and I have to admit that at times, this was a little confusing. However, once familiar with the structure of the novel it all flows quite well. 

The later era in the novel is concerned with Bell's fight to patent the telephone and his attempts to get Ellen on board. For her to support him in his quest.  Bell comes across as quite an extraordinary character, determined and a workaholic, his teachings and inventions can only enhance life for millions, yet it is not other people who are his main concern. As Ellen is told; Bell sees people, but only people, he doesn't appreciate individuals or consider their personal needs. 

A Sign of Her Own is a wonderful and eye opening look into the life of deaf people. It exposes the vulnerability of living in a noisy hearing world, surrounded by people, yet feeling alone and lonely. The controversy about whether sign language should be used, or whether deaf people should be made to communicate via other way is fascinating and something that I had not heard of before. 

This is a novel written with passion and authority that exposes many issues. Ellen is an amazing character, finely detailed and so easy to empathise with. Recommended by me. 

Sarah Marsh was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize in 2019 and selected for the
London Library Emerging Writers programme in 2020.

A Sign of Her Own is her first novel, inspired by her experiences of growing up deaf and her family's history of deafness.

She lives in London.

X @SarahCMarsh 

Instagram @sarahmarshwrites

No comments:

Post a Comment