Beginning about 1235 B.C. with the fall of a city in ancient Mitanni, a kingdom in the Middle East, to the Assyrians, THE SINGER AND HER SONG by N.L. Holmes tells the story of the singer Uqnitum. Her husband Ar-tesshub is a lyre player, and her widowed, pregnant daughter Tatasshe also sings. Her youngest son, Wullu, is stunted in his growth and intellectually challenged. When the city falls, they are taken prisoner by the Assyrians, although Uqnitum’s plea that they are musicians initially saves her husband’s life and then again saves him from being blinded with the other male prisoners. However, Wullu’s temper is frayed when he fails to get drinking water, and his attempt to attack a guard leads to his death. Uqnitum angrily speaks out; in punishment, the guards blind her husband.
From this harrowing beginning, the story moves to Uqnitum’s eventual employment as a singer in a new land, where she meets a number of people from her past. The novel is, above all, a character study of this strong, abrasive woman who creates chaos and consternation in those around her. She is the daughter of a famous composer and is herself a dazzling singer, but her mother died at her birth, and she has been deeply affected by being raised by a man she found cold and demanding despite his brilliance as a composer. Uqnitum delights others with her vocal abilities, but her bitterness and anger often repel others, even those she loves. She and the other musicians in the troupe prepare for a royal wedding while she creates turmoil in the troupe and, behind the scenes, political treachery is plotted among those in and around the palace. Despite the larger issues in the background, the novel remains firmly focused on Uqnitum and her family as they cope with birth, death, pride, love, jobs, and, above all, the influence of music in their lives.
The novel is well-written and edited; Author N.L. Holmes has a PhD in archaeology, so the details are right and the reader is never wondering if life really was as described during a time so long ago. Although relatively little is known about the people of Mittani, what is known has been seamlessly incorporated.
THE SINGER AND HER SONG is a somber delight; a well-researched novel that brings to life the very human characters caught in a time of war and tragedy, yet equally at the mercy of their own foibles and forced to find a way to survive tangled interpersonal relationships.
~Elizabeth Jewell for IndieReader