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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

Since starting Girl Vs Bookshelf I have really appreciated the sense of community that blogging has to offer and the way that it allows you to connect with people all over the world. It's some time ago now that I was browsing The Little Reader Library and got into an exchange of comments with novelist Linda Gillard. I had heard good things about her books from lots of the forum members over at Read It Swap It so put in a few swap requests and purely by chance ended up swapping with Linda herself for a signed copy of Emotional Geology. I thought it was about time I got around to reading this one, particularly as it will allow me to tick off a genre that I am less than enthusiastic about tackling in my Literary Exploration Challenge.


Whenever anybody mentions romantic fiction I find my knee-jerk reaction is to immediately claim that I don't like it, but on reflection I'm not sure how true that is. Romance surely doesn't have to mean pink covers, feeble heroines and slush? There are plenty of classic novels and books of all genres that contain love stories as part of a wider plot, some which I have enjoyed very much. The reviews I had read of Emotional Geology suggested that it is a mature and realistic take on the love story, so it seemed like a good one to try.

Emotional Geology Linda Gillard

Rose is a woman on the run - not from a physical enemy but from her memories and the skeletons in her closet. She's been through an agonising break-up, her relationship with her only daughter is strained, and any friends she once had have grown distant. The only way she can possibly conceive of getting her life back on track is to pack up the essentials and move as far away from her old world as she can imagine. She arrives at her little cottage on the island of Uist determined to clear her mind of any distractions, throwing herself into a reclusive existence devoted to her work as a textile artist.

Of course, if fiction has taught us anything it's that no matter how remote the location or improbable the situation, the likelihood is that an attractive man will turn up and thoroughly complicate matters. Enter Calum, a born-and-bred Uist man who writes poetry and teaches at the local school. Initially Rose thinks his brooding demeanour and fondness for whisky is just the Hebridean way, but in actual fact he has emotional scars of his own that he is trying to hide.

I have to be honest and say that the romance in this novel didn't especially grab me. The two main characters are both well-developed and likeable, and the plot held my interest sure enough, but I guess romance just isn't my subject matter of choice.

Where it excelled for me is in Gillard's portrayal of the landscape of Uist. Let's put it this way; I had never even heard of the place before reading Emotional Geology. But now after I've finished it, my boyfriend is slightly puzzled by the stream of hints I have been dropping about summer holidaying in the Outer Hebrides. She perfectly conveys the bleak beauty that is to be found there. I got completely lost in her descriptions of the wild beaches and stone circles. The sense of island life you get is also really interesting - a strange middle ground between complete isolation and a claustrophobic sense of everybody knowing everybody else's business. It definitely has a sure spot on my 'places I must visit' list (I mean, look at it!).

I was also impressed by the way in which Rose's bipolar disorder was dealt with. I can't think of many books I've read that have illustrated the manic phase of this illness particularly well - unfortunately I can think of a handful of titles that have done it especially badly, where characters have suddenly turned into some caricature of a psychotic monster and lost all sense of reality! But it was done very sensitively here and I thought the frenetic, disorganised thought patterns were shown perfectly.

While I can't say I'm converted to romantic fiction in general, this book has reminded me that it isn't all fluffy and overly sentimental. I will certainly be looking for more of Linda Gillard's books to try. If you like to read love stories then you should definitely consider giving this a go.


  1. Thank you for this marvellous review. I'm the author.

    I know you're not a romance fan (neither am I!) and clearly that aspect didn't work for you, but I'm thrilled with your appreciation of the rest of the book. It's much more a book about landscape and mental fragility than it is about finding the perfect partner.

    My own reading of the ending is much less optimistic than most readers'. I finished the book in a way that allowed readers to see the future for Rose that they wanted to see.

    So thank you very much for giving EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY a chance. If you want to try something else of mine and think you can stomach some more unorthodox romance, try UNTYING THE KNOT in which the central couple are both in their 40s and divorced. From each other. The Big Issue in this one is post-traumatic stress disorder and the hero is ex-bomb squad. But there are elements of romantic comedy, to which I suspect you might be allergic. ;-)

    I shall link to this review on my FB author page.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad to hear you appreciated the review and thank you for sharing it. It's interesting to hear your take on the ending as I was also left feeling somewhat uncertain, like it might not necessarily all be happily ever after for Rose.

      Untying The Knot sounds very interesting - I can't recall having read a book about PTSD before. I was planning on reading Star Gazing next as I have heard the leading man in that one is quite irresistible (even to romance-phobes like me!)

  2. I like romance novels and as I see after your review, I should give this book a go :) You know I didn't know the author (ohh and how cute - she has commented!!)
    I think you have describe the atmosphere of the book very well, really, and I can like this story.

    1. If you are a fan of romance novels I'm sure you would enjoy this. Glad to have introduced you to a new author. I have heard good things about all her books.

  3. It's so nice when authors comment on your posts. Often writers DM me on twitter after a review but don't comment on the acctual post. It's nice when they do leave a message for all to see.

    1. I know - it is sometimes difficult to put reviews out there, particularly if you are critical about some aspect of a book, and I often worry that authors would be offended or upset if they read one of my reviews so it's lovely to have a comment! I'm sure we've all seen writers making negative comments about the blogging community here and there so it's really nice to know that there are some who read and appreciate blogs.

  4. Glad you liked me dropping by to comment. :-)

    It's a tricky situation when you're an author and would like to thank someone for their review. I can understand why some authors might prefer to leave a private message. It would be difficult for someone who reads a blog to comment negatively after the author herself has left a grateful comment. I mean, if someone had read Marie's review above and had wanted to say, "I read this book and was really disappointed" or "I can't stand romance - why do people read this stuff?", would they have felt able to do that? I like to think people would be honest and not feel self-conscious because The Author left a comment. But I think once we weigh in with our opinions, it can change things.

    But I have to say, I almost always comment when bloggers review my books (even when the reviews are negative!) and in most cases people have been pleased to hear from the author. So I would encourage other authors to leave comments - always polite and friendly, of course!

  5. I really need to bump this up on my tbr, thanks for reviewing Marie.

    I always like it when an author takes the time to stop by :)

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net