Star Gazing - Reviews
New York Journal of Books:
"With STAR GAZING, Ms Gillard has undoubtedly created a thinking-woman's romance that lingers in the memory long after the last page has been turned."
Aberdeen Press & Journal:
"A read for diehard romantics with a bent towards environmental issues."
"A shamelessly romantic tale of a blind girl having her 'eyes'
opened by music. It is unbelievably good at transmitting the heroine's ability to cope with her affliction. A brave tale,
beautifully told, with many a twist and a feel for the beauty of
life, something often appreciated better if tragedy sinks the heart. I loved this book."
The Good Book Guide:
"Full of humour, poignancy and interest... Linda Gillard's haunting love story is original and delightful."
"A wonderful story about starting over, new beginnings, the affirming power of love and the ties of sisterhood." www.SingleTitles.com
Adele Geras, author of FACING THE LIGHT and HESTER'S STORY:
"This is a story of love, music, and nature, with touches of the supernatural and a very engaging and believable heroine. As a bonus, you're transported to the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh... An enjoyable novel by a reliably good writer."
Emma Lee-Potter writing in the Daily Express:
"Touching and perceptive."
Nicky Marr, Breakfast Show presenter, Moray Firth Radio:
"Three times I have read it now - makes me want to go to Skye every time!!"
Roger Hutchinson, author of CALUM'S ROAD, writing in the West Highland Free Press:
"She writes much better than most other published authors. She is more ambitious in her narratives than all but a few. Two of her three books have been difficult to put down. It's a track record worth recognising."
From Candis magazine:
"A blind, 40-something widow isn't the obvious choice for a romantic heroine, but Marianne Fraser leaps off the page in this beautifully written tale. Emotionally closed and bitter after losing her husband in a terrible accident, she is resigned to a single life, sharing a house with her sister in Edinburgh. Enter Keir Harvey, a somewhat abrupt yet mysterious stranger from the Isle of Skye, with whom Marianne feels an instant connection after a chance meeting one night on her doorstep. Keir wants to take Marianne to Skye and 'show' her the stars - but can she trust him? More vitally, will she allow herself to be vulnerable to love once again? This wonderful novel is by turns passionate, funny and truly moving - a compulsive page-turner to the very end."
Candis verdict: One to restore your faith in love!"
Sue Magee reviewing at www.TheBookBag.co.uk (where you can read an interview with Linda):
"Here at Bookbag we're tired of twenty-something females whose only problem is that they're totally unaware of how gorgeous their sweet natures, long blond hair and even longer legs really are. We're tired of impossibly handsome men who can't believe that this woman could love them for themselves. We've been uncharitable enough to wish them some dreadful fates, so it was refreshing to meet a heroine who really did have a lot to contend with. But you mustn't get the wrong idea about Marianne.
This woman is definitely not a victim. She doesn't want and won't get your sympathy.
She's intelligent, bright, witty and capable of understanding herself and her motives with a clarity we should all envy. She has a pithy turn of phrase and despite all the problems she has an adventurous spirit, so what is there to stop her going off to Skye with Keir? I mean they're just going as friends, aren't they? There's nothing more to it. There's a bit of a problem with Keir, you see. Well, more than a bit of a problem, actually. He's in his forties and not really that sociable. If you're blunt you might say that there are times when he's downright rude. Worst of all from Marianne's point of view is that Keir is an oil man like her late husband and there are some things that you can't go through again.
So, they're just going to go off to Skye as friends. Obviously.
I reached a point with this book when I simply couldn't put it down. I'm not even going to hint at what happens other than to say that I was reading at three o'clock this morning desperate to find out how the book ended. There were times when I laughed out loud and one point where it was all I could do to hold the tears back. This story has more twists than a corkscrew.
It's intelligent fiction. The story springs from Marianne's blindness - it's not just something that's imported to give the tale a novel twist. When you read you'll gain some understanding not just of what it's like to be blind but what it's like never to have seen, not to be able to imagine what a building or a beach looks like. It's not just your emotions that this book will engage. You'll need your brain too."
STAR GAZING was shortlisted for
"Romantic Novel of the Year 2009"
Novelist Lisa Glass writing on the Vulpes Libris book blog:
"A novel that I gobbled down in a couple of days... STAR GAZING is a quiet, thoughtful tale sure to delight fans of the classic love story. I enjoy good romantic fiction and STAR GAZING had a comforting, hopeful quality that reminded me of the work of Rosy Thornton, an author whose novels I rate highly. Still, romance-loathers beware, because if you don't appreciate the good old love story, then STAR GAZING will likely drive you up the wall with its quiet belief in the power of love and its carpe diem sentiment. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a fresh, captivating retelling of 'girl meets boy' with a splash of international drama and a sprinkle of Scottish scenery, then I'd highly recommend this sparely-written and heartwarming novel."
E.H of Anglesey writing in The People's Friend:
"Being already familiar with Linda Gillard's work, I just knew that I'd be in for a treat with STAR GAZING and I wasn't disappointed. It's a lovely book and keeps you in supsense until the very last page! I love the way the story unfolds from two different perspectives, especially the blind Marianne. Very thought-provoking."
Kevin Crowe, bookseller, writing in Am Bratach, a magazine for NW Scotland:
"Most fiction is highly visual. Descriptions may use touch, smell and sound, but vision predominates: skies are blue, grass is green, snow is white. Such is the ubiquity of sight as the means to transmit information, it is demanding for both writer and reader to try and perceive things without recourse to vision. James Kelman, in his Booker prize-winning HOW LATE IT IS, HOW LATE created a character who woke up one morning in a prison cell to find himself blind. Apart from flashback sequences, the rest of the novel relies on senses other than sight.
"Gillard's latest novel is very different in tone and subject to Kelman's, but she too invites us to live in a world of darkness. Indeed, she goes further than Kelman in creating Marianne who is congenitally blind, and thus has no conception of colour, dimensions and other visual aspects of the world...
"Although a love story, this book is a world away from the escapist romances of Cartland and Cookson. It is gritty, realistic, ironic and challenging. And Gillard has succeeded in writing an accessible and entertaining novel in which we are forced to face the world without the sense of sight."
From a 5 star review on Amazon by Lynette Baines of Melbourne, Australia:
"As a sighted person, I can't judge how accurate Linda Gillard's portrayal of blindness from the inside is, but, as a reader, I was totally convinced. Keir is a heart-stoppingly attractive hero, and Marianne is so stroppy, you just have to love her & want this relationship to last. It's unusual in romantic fiction to have a heroine who exasperates the reader as much as Marianne does, but, the book is all the better for it. There are more than enough bland heroines out there. Marianne is real & the journey she takes with Keir is a delight. Edinburgh & Skye in winter are gorgeous settings for the story, and Louisa & her Goth assistant, Garth, provide some lighter moments... A fantastic romance with real characters. I read it in one afternoon, unputdownable."
A tree-house features in STAR GAZING. This
is the tree-house at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
From Cornflower's book blog :
"Here's an idea: check the weather forecast for the weekend. If it's going to be cold and wet, sit by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and read this book; if it's going to be warm and sunny, get a seat in the shade and read this book.
Linda Gillard's latest novel STAR GAZING is a delight... Apart from the fluency of Linda's writing, what particularly struck me about this book is the wonderfully perceptive and sensitive depiction of what it is to be blind, and to what degree a lack of sight causes a reliance on other senses...
You're unlikely to be disappointed in the book."
From a review by Ann Davis of Doncaster in NewBooks magazine:
"A thoughtful yet romantic read... This is a good book for a group as there would be much to discuss... Unashamedly a well-written romance story."
Personal read: 4/5
Reading group read: 5/5 "
From Elaine Simpson-Long's Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover book blog:
"The use of musical images to paint a picture for Marianne is just so right... When Keir is trying to describe snow to Marianne he says it is dazzling and almost hurts the eyes. 'And if it were a sound?' He gazes at the snow-covered landscape. 'You know those strings at the beginning of The Flying Dutchman overture. The very opening chords? That's what it looks like'. Perfect.
I enjoyed STAR GAZING enormously... I think that A LIFETIME BURNING still remains my favourite so far, even though I think this is better written. The narrative seems to be much more pared down here, no words wasted, clean, flowing and no superfluous ornamentation. This is the kind of writing I admire and like. I cannot bear fuss and frills and this style suits the slightly prickly, tentative nature of the slowly growing love between Marianne and Keir.
Thank you, Linda, and thank you for the operatic and music references in the story which, for me, enhanced this lovely book."
From Rhapsodyinbooks' Weblog:
"This lovely book goes down like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day; a delicious treat that leaves
you with a warm, satisfied feeling on the inside...Though the deprivation of sight is part of the story,
your other senses will be stretched to the limit in this book, as you learn, along with Marianne and
Keir, to 'see' through other means... The love scenes themselves, in particular, are a revelation of
sensory communication. I loved this book."
From a review by Cat Kay. The full review appeared in THE FOUNDER , the student newspaper of Royal Holloway, University of London.
"...Marianne's world is sensory. As she sits on a bench in the open air, Keir, who is passing nearby, is recognized by scent. So begins a journey of discovery for Keir and for the reader, as we begin to gain an idea of life using your other four senses. The novel takes in enchanting Edinburgh and the beautiful Scottish scenery, but it was the lexical landscape and the characters that flickered in my mind long after I'd finished the book. Gillard's characters are real; you feel as if you could have passed them in the street this morning. They don't so much jump off the page, as jump onto it. Her powers of portrayal are beyond good, and instead brilliantly imaginative. She teaches us to listen, to realise the beauty of hearing, how sounds can create aural paintings for the ears, and pen melodic poetry in the mind. It was not just a breath, but a whirlwind of fresh air to read a book, which reminds us that we have five senses and that, in this world, there is so very much more than meets the eye...
...This is a book which will make you notice and appreciate things you barely knew were there; the small sounds which mark out life for those who do not have the privilege of sight to guide them. Moreover, it is a story whose abiding message is one of hope. It doesn't so much shine a light in the dark; rather, it gives the darkness words, shape and meaning.
After having been in contact with the author, I discovered that STAR GAZING was not her intended title for the book. Her choice was FALLING WATER, WEEPING STONE. It certainly captures the emotional heart of the book. However, STAR GAZING implies a certain sense of looking beyond the everyday of this world, and that's exactly what I found myself doing after reading this book. In fact, I realise I wasn't looking at all. This book didn't open my eyes: it closed them, and I'm so very glad it did."