I was first introduced to Linda Gillard when Linda gave some brilliant talks to groups of bookcrossers of which I was one, a few years ago. I read her novels A Lifetime Burning and Emotional Geology around this time with enormous enjoyment. I was responsible for introducing these books to my mother and her friend who loved them too, before later reading Star Gazing and kindle book House of Silence. I have to admit to having had Untying the Knot on my kindle for a very long time – since soon after buying it in fact, it is so easy to forget the books waiting to read on a kindle I find. Thankfully Simon’s recent review of House of Silence reminded me that I still had two of Linda Gillard’s books to read.
“Everyone makes mistakes, but I sometimes think I’ve made more than most. Marrying Magnus was one of them. But the biggest mistake I ever made was divorcing him”
Textile artist Fay divorced from Magnus and living alone in Glasgow, maintains a good relationship with her mother-in-law, but has difficulty with her daughter. Fay’s former husband, whose experiences as a soldier in the Falklands, Belfast and the Gulf have left him suffering from PTSD, is a damaged man.
“I’ve had cause to think about memory and the harm it can do; the way it also heals and consoles. I spend my working life preserving other people’s memories trying to capture them in a form of textile “still life”, but I spent much of my marriage watching the man I loved being tortured – all but destroyed – by the demons of memory.”
Living away from the city in the ancient Tullibardine Tower which he restored from a ruin, Magnus now lives with Nina. When their daughter Emily at only twenty two decides to marry a man who Fay has a very real reason to think is unsuitable, Fay is forced to contact her ex-husband, she confides her fears to Magnus. However it isn’t only Emily with marriage on her mind, when Magnus surprisingly announces his own engagement, only Fay seems to realise he is almost certainly making a huge mistake. It is Fay, for years living with and understanding Magnus’s demons, who knows him best of all. Powerful family secrets are at the heart of this novel, Magnus’s mother has her own story to tell, which she has never revealed to her son.
As I don’t want to spoil the story for future readers, I am stopping there – I hope some of you will be tempted to find out more for yourselves.
Untying the knot is an enormously readable and engaging novel. I have to admit to quickly developing a soft spot for Magnus a brilliantly written character, his vulnerabilities and frailties, portrayed with honesty and understanding. The back story of Magnus’s life as a soldier, demonstrating powerfully the dark realties for many soldiers and former soldiers, I can only assume was well researched by the author.
I now must make sure I don’t leave it quite so long before reading The Glass Guardian – Linda Gillard’s most recent novel.