Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Lifetime Burning - Linda Gillard - Review, Author Interview & Giveaway!




As I write this, I am still thinking about this novel; it has stayed very much in my mind for days since finishing it. It is an enthralling, gripping story of several generations of the Dunbar family, and of forbidden, hopeless love that has tragic consequences.  At the heart of the novel are twins Flora and Rory. Flora describes Rory as ‘my twin brother, my childhood companion, the other half of my life, the other half of my self’, bringing to mind the feelings Cathy has about Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights’, of one not being whole without the other. I think it would be wrong to reveal much of the plot and themes here, as it adds so much to the experience of reading this novel if you discover it all for yourself page by page. Suffice it to say that the relationship between Flora and her nephew Colin, which is revealed in the synopsis of the novel, is by no means the only unorthodox pairing here. Music plays an important role in the book, with Rory emerging as a talented pianist, leaving Flora in his shadow. And endeavouring to be good, and ‘the possibility of loving and being loved in return’, drives Flora and Hugh in particular.


The structure is inspired; the novel covers the years from the 1940’s until 2000, but it is not a linear narrative, rather the author takes us backwards and forwards in time, and allows us to visit certain moments in the characters’ lives. As the reader gets deeper into the novel, events take on new meanings, or more weight is given to a certain conversation or meeting, and truths are revealed. On finishing the book I, like many other readers, was keen to return to the first pages and read them again, knowing what I then knew, and understanding so much more. Flora Dunbar narrates parts of the story from beyond the grave; the rest is third-person narration upon which Flora can then comment with the benefit of hindsight.

It’s an absorbing, brave and unforgettable book, from a talented writer. The dialogue flows easily; the characters are so well drawn that they leap from the page; they are loved, rejected, damaged, hopeful, damned and loved again, and they grow and change through the timescale covered in the novel. As a reader it makes you think, question and ponder, and though you may not like some of the characters and their actions, they are nevertheless compelling. A thoroughly riveting read. 



5/5


'A Lifetime Burning' is available to buy now from Amazon as an e-book for Kindle, click here for the UK Amazon page.

You can visit Linda's author website to find out more about this, her other novels, her thoughts about writing, and more. 


Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the novel for me to read and give an unbiased review.




GIVEAWAY HAS NOW ENDED - WINNER CHOSEN AT RANDOM - SHAZ! CONGRATS!


THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!


Win a copy of 'A Lifetime Burning'! 


Linda is very kindly offering a copy of the paperback edition of the novel (with a different cover to that shown above), available to UK entrants only, or a Kindle gift certificate to download the e-book version, which is open to UK and International entrants.


To enter, please enter your name and email address into the form below.


Entries close 31st January 2012.
A winner will be picked at random.
Thank you!



a Rafflecopter giveaway




Interview with the author, Linda Gillard 


Where did the idea for 'A Lifetime Burning' come from? Did you have any particular inspiration, or did the idea just form itself and grow as you began to write the book?


There were 2 things that formed the genesis of ALB. I wanted to write about some “bad” characters. I’d just completed my first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY which had a lot of nice people being nice to each other and I wondered if I was capable of writing about less likeable people - “villains” in fact. So I had this idea that I would write a sort of 21st-century version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, with a contemporary Heathcliff & Cathy. (Much as I love and admire that book, I don’t think anyone could claim the hero and heroine are appealing.)


The other jumping-off point for ALB was a sort of writing challenge I set myself, which was about nothing/everything happening at one particular moment in time. I wanted to write a book, a key scene of which would be a character walking into a room and seeing/ experiencing something that made him/her re-evaluate his/her entire life. Not finding the wife in the arms of the postman - that would only make you reassess your marriage. I wanted something that would shake a character to the foundations. But - and this was the killer! - I wanted nothing to happen. I wanted no-one to know. Life would just carry on as normal - apparently - whilst seismic shocks were still reverberating beneath the character's surface. In addition, I didn't want the reader to know what had actually happened until much later.

I didn’t know how (or even if) I could make this work, but I thought it was an interesting proposition. It took me a while, but eventually I thought of something. When you read that scene in the book, "nothing happens". Only much later do you find out what was actually going on under the apparently calm surface.

I love the different structure in this novel, moving about in time, I think it adds to the experience of reading the novel. Did this add to your enjoyment in writing - how difficult was it?
I agree it adds to the novel and I don’t know how else I could have covered 58 years of the twins' lives in depth, in 410pp! If I'd written chronologically there would be years where nothing much happened because no one's life is eventful year after year. The "scrapbook" structure enabled me to focus on key events.

Another reason I chose to write non-chronologically is that novels have to have a fairly standard structure with climaxes at 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through, with a satisfying resolution at the end. Human lives don't necessarily have that structure. By ignoring the march of time, I could structure the novel so that climactic events were revealed to the reader at the point where they'd serve the story best. I could also conceal information. I was able to manipulate the story and readers’ emotions by keeping them waiting for a missing piece of jigsaw.

I think this might be why readers have found ALB such a page-turner. They have to piece the story together. They’re aware there are important things they don't know yet and they read on, hoping for revelations.

Was it difficult to write? Yes, very! I had a long timeline spanning over 60 years (I had to join lots of sheets of paper together with sellotape) and I drew up a big family tree. I also had a grid which told me how old everyone was in any particular year. I had to refer to these constantly. There were times when my brain hurt and I thought I just wasn’t up to the job, but I think it worked and it was immensely satisfying to do. Not sure I’d want to do it again though!



My favourite character in the novel is Hugh, which is yours?
Oh, yes, Hugh! He’s the real hero of the novel, but a rather unusual one. Reader reactions to him vary a lot. But I agree with Flora who says of him: “I believed Hugh to be a truly good man. I still do, if one accepts that it’s possible to be good without being honest; that in fact it’s sometimes necessary to be dishonest in order to do good.” That was one of the key themes of the book and something I wanted to explore: how much harm can you do by trying to do “the right thing”? That’s what all the characters in ALB are trying to do, most of the time. And the results are catastrophic!

I think I've read that this is your favourite of all your novels, why?
It’s the most technically ambitious book I’ve written, but apart from the sense of achievement, I also just love the characters – all of them. They were like an alternative family for me. Readers say the book haunts them, long after they’ve finished reading it. It haunts me too – still! Those characters really got under my skin, especially the anti-hero, Rory. I feel rather proud to have created such memorable, complex characters.

Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I’m currently doing the final edit of a supernatural love story set on the Isle of Skye. When that’s done, I’ll be sending it off to my agent and it will start doing the rounds of editors. Then I’ll start researching my next novel – my seventh. It’s planned in outline and I hope to start writing it in the spring.

Do you have a special/favourite place where you read and where you write?
I have a really comfy Parker Knoll armchair in my study where I like to read. I do most of my writing at a table in my study, but if a book is going well, I can write anywhere and on anything. I usually write in longhand first. (Disposable pencil on lined A4 if you want the techie details.) I can write straight on to the PC, but found I wrote better in pencil. It’s something to do with having physical contact with the page and words and the scratchy sound of the pencil.

Who are your favourite writers?
In alphabetical order: the Brontes, Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Dunnett, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margaret Forster, Georgette Heyer, Susan Howatch, Patrick O’ Brian, Gillian Philip, Mary Renault, Shakespeare, Mary Stewart, P G Wodehouse.

What are you reading at the moment?
ILLYRIAN SPRING by Ann Bridge. There have been a lot of enthusiastic blogs about her recently, some saying that her books are similar to Mary Stewart’s. She’s one of my favourite authors) so I decided to give her a try. It’s beautifully written and I’m really enjoying it.


Thank you very much for your time Linda!

27 comments:

  1. Sounds like a book I would enjoy very much! Thank you for the giveaway Lins and thank you for sharing the lovely interview with Linda:)
    Hugs

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  2. Lins, love your review - the way you've written it as well as what you do and don't say! You've sold me. Enjoyed reading the responses from Linda Gillard to your well written questions. Thank you! Shaz x http://jerasjamboree.wordpress.com/

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  3. This book sounds fab. Lins great review.

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  4. Sounds like a great book. I loved the interview. Very insightful.

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  5. This sounds exactly like my cup of tea! Your review says just enough to make me want to read more, well done. Same applies to the interview. Thank you for a chance to win this book.

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  6. Great! Thank you for offering such a great give-away.

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  7. Really interesting interview and review.
    Thanks for the competition

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  8. I'm not from the UK.... bummer!

    Sounds like a great book and a super review. Hugs and have a great week!!! :O)

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  9. Great review, hopefully looking forward to reading this books thanks xx

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  10. Thanks so much for the chance, it looks really good. Great review :)

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  11. Diane, do you have a Kindle? I'm also offering a Kindle gift certificate so you can buy the book if you live outside the UK.

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  12. Thank you very much for your kind comments everyone.
    If you're outside the UK Diane you can still win a Kindle version if that helps.

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  13. Definitely sounds like one I should check out! Thanks!!

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  14. Hi, Lindsay!

    Just a note from your latest follower, popping by courtesy of the Beck Valley Books "blog hop"...

    Great reviews, I'll be in touch to see if you're interested in reviewing on or more of my books sometime...

    Have a great week!
    Edward
    http://read-write-listen.blogspot.com

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  15. I’m a writer, book lover, and your newest blog follower! My blog is Life of Lois Feel free to stop on by.

    Lois

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  16. really informative and interesting. Thanks for a great comp

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  17. I love that Linda, the author, likes to hand write her novels, to feel the connection. I think that is incredible.

    Thank you for this Giveaway!

    Patricia
    madley (AT) cogeco (DOT) ca

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  18. sounds like a really interesting book!

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  19. Book sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  20. AWeeeeesommmeee giveaway!!! Interesting book! I've been wanting to read it!!

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  21. sounds like a great book, can't wait to read it!

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  22. I like the structure of the story, which is different and interesting.

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  23. Thanks for a great giveaway. Always a good sign when a book stays in your mind days after reading it. Looks like a good read. Would love to win.

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  24. wow how insiteful, great review! sounds liek a fab book

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  25. Sounds like a great book - great review

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  26. I love this author, so would love to read this one! :)

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