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

Monday, 15 April 2013

Meeting Lydia - Linda MacDonald - Book Tour - review and giveaway



'Memories were strange things: paper fragments, some black with jagged edges and some softly curving and brightly coloured.'


The year is 2001 and psychology teacher Marianne Hayward is thinking more and more about the past. Her daughter Holly has introduced her to Friends Reunited and she beings to spend time on the site looking through the names. This in turn causes her to reflect and it stirs up memories of her school days, of fellow pupils both kind and cruel. Now aged forty-six, Marianne feels she is at a turning point in her life; a change both physical and metaphorical seems to be underway, her husband Johnny has an attractive new colleague and seems suddenly more distant and her only child Holly is leaving for University. Pondering her memories, her life as it is now, and thinking about the difficult times she endured when she was bullied as a young girl, one of only a few girls attending a boys prep school called Brocklebank. She has stayed silent and not shared these memories, hiding them even from herself for most of her life:

'...the worst moments were still hidden in a locked box, too painful even for her own scrutiny. Sometimes she thought about opening the lid just a fraction and peeking through the tiniest gap to see if perhaps there was nothing alarming in there after all; that it was all a mistake; that she needn't have spent a lifetime of avoidance. But always she faltered, frightened of what she might find, and the box remained shut.'

Now, as she revisits those times in her mind, she remembers a boy who was never unkind to her, Edward Harvey, and searches Friends Reunited to see if he is there, wondering and intrigued as to what happened to him. The prologue to the novel introduces us to Lydia and Lucy in 1967 and I enjoyed discovering who these characters were and how the title of this novel comes about as I read on. 

I thought this was a really good premise for a story, and I was drawn in by the idea of Marianne looking back; I was interested in who she would find from her school days and how far she would go in terms of getting in touch with her former classmates from so many years before. This theme touches on something which many people will have toyed with, with the advent first of Friends Reunited, and then in more recent years facebook, both offering new ways back to the past. But is this always a safe path, an advisable one to take? We don't know what people will be like now. We may find happy nostalgia, but we may uncover sadness and hurt that has lain dormant. For Marianne, the one person she would be interested in hearing from is Edward, and the idea of finding him becomes somewhat of a preoccupation for her. Should she succeed in finding him, would getting in touch be the right thing to do?

Marianne is very prone to introspection; we are party to her thoughts and to the words she records in her journal as she analyses her days and thinks everything over. She is also prone to dwelling on the negative side with regard to events and recollections, and forgetting the more pleasant things that happened, something that is admittedly all too easy to do and which I identified with. 'She forgot the good times...and just remembered always feeling isolated, marginalised, bullied and downtrodden....The lesson was to learn perspective, but she hadn't learnt it yet.' Though I was willing her to no longer be blighted by past sadness, I understood that she was deeply scarred by it; events can haunt us even when, or perhaps because, we have kept them locked away, trying to protect ourselves. 

The novel looks at the enduring impact that bullying can have; Marianne tells us that 'the frightened girl is still within me. I hear her crying sometimes; I feel her pain when they call her names.' Despite a marriage that has been very happy and a lovely daughter, she is haunted by the damage inflicted during those early school days. 

I thought this was a thoughtful, emotional and moving novel of one woman's midlife journey through difficult times, self-criticism, past pain and confusion towards an understanding and acceptance of her past and a reassessment of her present; events are portrayed with sensitivity and perception by the author. This is a story about memories, hurt, emotional scars, love and life. 



Thanks to the author and the tour organiser for kindly sending me an ebook copy of this novel to read and review. 




You can follow the author on twitter @LindaMac1 and also find her on Goodreads and on Facebook


Read about the story behind Meeting Lydia in this guest post by the author on Jera's Jamboree book blog.


About the Author


Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, on the edge of the Lake District in Cumbria, England. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught secondary science and biology in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write, paint and make jewellery. In 1990 she was lured back into teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught health and social care and psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’.

At the end of 2009, Linda broke her wrist very badly through tripping over a classroom chair. Reminded of the fragility of life and how time was passing with her writing dreams still unfulfilled, she decided to publish her first novel independently. Meeting Lydia was inspired by finding an ex classmate on Friends Reunited. The novel explores the effects of school bullying on later life, and the pros and cons of internet relationships from the perspective of a woman going through a midlife crisis. It was published in September 2011. The stand-alone sequel, A Meeting of a Different Kind, had already been drafted before Linda broke her wrist and was published in November last year. It continues the story from the perspectives of two different characters, looking at issues of friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Both books may be read independently and are being very well-received by a wide ranging readership of men as well as women. It is expected that there will be a third part to the series and this is a work in progress.

Health issues in 2011 prompted Linda to retire from teaching in order to concentrate on her writing career. She hopes that with this new focus she can bring her books to the notice of a larger audience.

Giveaway!


I am delighted to share with you a giveaway that is running with this whole book tour - the prize is two signed paperback copies of Meeting Lydia with further prizes of signed postcards and bookmarks.  To enter, please leave a comment on this post.  Please find a link to the rafflecopter entry form below. Two weeks after the tour ends, the author will select the winners from the comments on all blogs taking part in the tour. The giveaway is open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


20 comments:

  1. I would love to win as I love to read 'new to me' authors and the book sounds very interesting!

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Nikki! :)

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    2. Thanks very much for visiting and commenting Nikki. Good luck!

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  2. A very insightful review Lins.

    Thank you for hosting Linda on the first day of the tour.
    Shaz x

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    1. Thanks for having me as part of this fab tour Shaz, and for your kind comment about my review. All the best x

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  3. As always, a great review. Would love to give this one a try.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Anne! :)

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    2. Thanks for commenting Anne, good luck!

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  4. Sounds good, would like to try :)

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    1. Thanks for commenting, good luck!

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  5. Lovely review, Lins and yes I agree with you, it is a very thoughtful and moving.

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    1. Thanks very much for your kind comment Sue, I'm glad you liked this one too.

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  6. Please enter me :) Id love to read this book x

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    1. Thanks for commenting Mia, good luck!

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  7. I'm late forties, and recently joined a group of ex school mates on a social network page..I rapidly found out why it isn' t good to look back.... '' the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.''. (according to L.P. Hartley, anyway..

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    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting June. That is a great quote, thanks for reminding us of it. You're right I think, looking back can be hard.

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  8. This is completely new to me & it sounds great! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting Carly :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)