The Sound and the Silence: The Private Lives of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell


360 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55109-151-8
DDC 621.385'092






Reviewed by Hannah Gay

Hannah Gay is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University in
British Columbia.


Novelistic in form, this biography recounts the story of Mabel Bell and
Alexander Graham Bell, her famous husband. Born into a wealthy and
well-connected Boston family, Mabel became deaf after a childhood
illness. Alexander Bell came from an entrepreneurial Scottish family.
His father, Melville, developed a phonetic system called Visible Speech,
which he believed could be used to help teach deaf children to speak.
Alexander took his father’s Visible Speech campaign to America. He
accepted a position with the Boston School for the Deaf and became
Mabel’s tutor.

This book records their courtship and marriage in 1877, their travels,
family births and deaths, and the ups and downs of an entrepreneurial
business life. Although a good read, the book is nonscholarly and not
for readers interested in Bell’s life as an autodidact and inventor;
his wide-ranging experiments, including those with the telephone,
receive only passing (and nontechnical) mention.


Foster, Tony., “The Sound and the Silence: The Private Lives of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,