Untying the Knot – launched today

August 30th, 2011

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that Linda Gillard had a new book coming out and I hoped to be reviewing it. It comes out today and I’ve been working on a new set of web pages for it on her site – Untying the Knot.


The book is perhaps the closest to a romance that Linda has yet written, but as always with her it’s so much more than that. Indeed if that were all it was I wouldn’t be finishing reading it let alone enjoying and reviewing it. She has the knack of creating characters that you can believe in as if you’d met them, and imbuing them with exactly the sort of flaws, errors and misconceptions, balanced by persistence and courage and refusal to give in, that signal something more akin to real life rather than fiction.

It tells the story of a family which is separated, indeed the two main characters have been divorced for 5 years. One (Fay) is a talented textile artist – something of a Gillard trademark from her first book Emotional Geology – while the other (Magnus) is a former bomb disposal expert. The other characters are Magnus’ mother Jessie, who Fay has stayed close to, their daughter Emily and her fiancé, and Magnus’ girlfriend Nina. Despite this being a small group Gillard finds plenty of resources for characterisation and plot twists as we learn more about their history and about why Fay and Magnus can’t live together but can’t be happy apart.

What principally sets this book apart from the average romance and gives it its cutting edge is that much of the story focuses on the strains of living with the demons of mental illness – another theme which Gillard uses both frequently and with astonishing clarity and sympathy. Magnus suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has terrifying flashbacks – having been blown up in action. We see what it’s like to have to cope with such a dramatic and invasive problem and also what it means to be their partner and to try to cope with the stresses it causes. And in understanding it in these characters we learn to understand it in real life; and realise that it’s neither unusual or something to be frightened of.

The scene for much of the important action is a once ruined Scottish towerhouse which Magnus has rebuilt, and as events unfold and we get sections of past storyline – something that the author handles seamlessly and better than any other I’ve read – we gradually see her talent in using the house’s symbolism, connecting interwoven plotlines through it, and connecting it to the past events which have shaped the characters’ lives and brought them to where they are.

As is the case with all of her books, this one has a couple of unexpected twists which serve to absorb the reader ever more deeply in the story and to shed much more light on the characters than could have been done by any form of exposition. We come to understand them and appreciate the reasons for their mistakes even as we pray that they won’t make them. We feel their yearnings, we cry with them when things look black and impossible, and we feel the shiver running down our spine when the tension becomes unbearable. (You’ll know what I mean when you read it!)

This is storytelling of a high order. I can almost, but not quite, understand the inability of publishers to classify it (see my earlier post), because a simple explanation of the plot makes it sound like the sort of throwaway, read-once and forget, novel that fills airport rubbish bins the world over. But the ability to convey emotion and inner thoughts and the commitment to communicate difficult subjects, as well as the finely crafted writing, set this book far above that level. Like all Linda’s books you’ll want to read it again, and you won’t forget the characters.

It deserves to be available in paper form but I have no doubt that her growing legion of readers will snap it up in ebook form, wondering why it’s so cheap as they do so. Her last book, which was the first to be released as an ebook, has sold over 10,000 copies without the benefit of publisher’s advertising budget. I expect this one to do even better.

Entry Filed under: Books

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda Gillard  |  August 30th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you so much, Bill, for this thoughtful and heartfelt review. I’m really touched. (And you did a great job of not giving away the plot!)

    I’m hoping I might have time soon to investigate getting this book and HOUSE OF SILENCE into print form. I’m so pleased the e-book revolution has allowed my books to find their readers – and it appears they are legion. HOS has now sold 12,000 copies in 5 months. Not bad for a novel deemed “unmarketable”.

  • 2. Bernie Robinson  |  August 30th, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Fab review and no more than Linda deserves. Her books are a joy to read and are well worth purchasing in tree book or ebook format. Give one a go if you’ve not read one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

    I’m currently reading this one.

  • 3. Mickey Thies  |  August 31st, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I ordered it last night. After her last book, I am really looking forward to it.

  • 4. Linda Gillard  |  September 2nd, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Thank you, Mickey. 🙂 I hope you won’t be disappointed.

    The reviews are coming in now and it seems readers don’t share editors’ & retailers’ concerns with narrow genre categories. Quelle surprise!

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