The Memory Tree - Reviews
Note: The Memory Tree was previously published in 2016 as The Trysting Tree. These reviews were for that edition.
This moving dual-time story celebrates the power of love to overcome the darkest memories and deepest losses. Linda Gillard proves yet again that she can write compelling stories about characters who may bow, but don’t break. THE MEMORY TREE will keep you spellbound.
Lorna Fergusson, author of THE CHASE.
From a blog review on BEING ANNE:
...THE MEMORY TREE had so many elements I love to find in any book I read. First of all, there's the dual time element - a modern story of a family with a mystery in its past, a story spanning the First World War, linked by setting and a shared history.
I particularly loved the way the earlier story was told - real time, readings from diaries, letters, sometimes even by the trees themselves. Both stories are complex and engaging, exploring love and loss and set against a vividly drawn backdrop, deep in natural detail and rich in atmosphere.
In the modern story, there's a wonderfully drawn mother-daughter relationship - the character of mother Phoebe is particularly well developed, her loss of movement and inability to paint very poignantly described, her difficult personality and absence of mothering instinct perfectly drawn.
Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood (1917)
by Paul Nash
I loved Hester in the earlier story too - struggling with the pressure of expectation and convention, with a strong clear voice. The love story of old and the one of the present day are intensely moving and totally absorbing - and the complex plot, full of secrets, within which the love stories sit twists and turns with ease, deftly handled by a writer fully in control of her craft.
If you've read Linda Gillard's work before, you'll be enchanted by this one. If you haven't - well, this really wouldn't be a bad place to start.
Some 5-star Amazon reviews...
A carving by Paul Sivell,
"Whitefield Green Man."
Illustration © 2007 Paul Sivell
GILLARD'S BEST SO FAR!
This story defies categorization... THE MEMORY TREE could be called a mystery but is in no way a romance novel nor exactly a historical novel, though both elements are present.
The initial themes of the novel would seem to center on war and gardening, as derived from the beginning Churchill quote. Loss and growth. Yet surrounding those, we have a symphony of ideas to contemplate: early feminism, morality, class differences, cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, divorce, infertility, depression, perceptions of parental expectations - all introduced without confusion for the reader.
My favorite aspect of THE MEMORY TREE , however, is that the primary theme is actually VISION, literal blending with figurative. Gillard is a master of the senses and imagery abounds in the prose (reminiscent of her earlier book, STAR GAZING, in which she manages to turn music into sight for a blind woman). Additionally, in THE MEMORY TREE there is a strong focus on how the characters see and understand things, beginning in the literal sense with Phoebe’s artistic eye. Point of view is of primary importance to the story, and each character presents his or her own perspective. Really, the beech wood is the only omniscient presence, with the reader a close second. Everything is about perspective. How we see things in our lives, what we know and don’t know, that is what makes all the difference. Linda Gillard has so skillfully made this the reason I am still contemplating THE MEMORY TREE days after finishing it.
Read this book. And read everything else she has written.
KEPT ME UP TILL 2.00am
I've been waiting very (im)patiently for Linda Gillard's latest release, and it did not disappoint. As always, the characters are artfully realised and the story catches you from the first page, with the sense of mystery and foreboding I've come to associate with so many of her novels - you simultaneously can't wait to discover what's to come, but dread the knowledge at the same time.
I couldn't put it down, staying awake till the wee hours to find out the forgotten histories of the two families that are interwoven throughout the story, and then couldn't sleep thinking about it afterwards: Ann, Hester, Phoebe, William and Ivy stayed with me for quite some time.
It's hard to pick particular highlights, but the contrasting characterisations of Hester and Phoebe were, for some reason, the ones that resonated with me most: the former for wonderfully capturing what it must have been like to be an intelligent, loving and progressive young woman in the early 1910s living through the horror of the war and the changing responsibilities that created for her, and the latter for creating such a real, complex and truly flawed heroine. I initially wasn't sure about Phoebe as a character, and she's far from the ideal mother (or friend), but you just can't help growing to love her for all of her quirks and, above all, truly feel her pain at the most recent blow life has handed to her and how that has affected her ability to express herself creatively.
Knowing that this is at least partly inspired by the author's most recent experiences only makes that all the more hard-hitting, and while I can imagine those scenes may not have been the easiest to write, they certainly hit home as a result.
I've deliberately tried to avoid spoilers in this review, but what I can say to prospective readers is that THE MEMORY TREE is a wonderful exploration of two separate families living in very different time periods, joined by circumstance and geography, with some amazingly interesting story-telling devices (including sections delivered, rather hauntingly, by the beech wood in which the title tree stands).
I thoroughly recommend it and, if you enjoy it, the author's back catalogue holds some other treasures!