Untying the Knot - Reviews

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An excerpt from a longer review by Sue Magee of The Bookbag:

"Right - you understand that this is probably the best book bargain that you'll get all year? Good. I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening for less than the cost of a glass of decent wine - and I've still got the book to read again, because that's one of the joys of Linda's books. You read them once to enjoy the story and then again to see how she did it. And if you're thinking that this is chicklit, think again.

Yes - there's a romance in there, but it's about how people cope when the situation they're in is intolerable, about what it's like to live with the knowledge that death - or the death of the person who is your life - is around the corner. Tragedy can happen to anyone, but there are some people who live permanently at the front of the queue. It's about the fact that there's an aftermath to all this - for the people we expect to keep us safe and their families. I found myself thinking about things which I'd never really considered before."

A 5-star Amazon UK review by Gillian Philip, best-selling author of FIREBRAND:

"It's impossible not to ache for the hero and heroine in this stunning novel. In a classic can't-live-with-him-can't-live-without-him situation - but with a heartrending extra dimension in Magnus's PTSD - Fay and Magnus have been the saving of each other, literally and metaphorically, yet life together seems impossible. Fay has divorced Magnus, unable to cope with the very thing that has restored his sanity after being invalided out of the army: Tullibardine Tower, a ruin he has devoted all his energy to restoring.

Magnus is a magnificent hero: courageous, troubled, vulnerable and impulsive (all my favourites). His struggles with PTSD - the nightmares, the flashbacks, the hallucinations and the paranoia - only serve to make him more humanly heroic. Fay is gutsy, intelligent, and no pushover: I loved her preparations for the trauma that is Magnus's engagement party to another woman. And she has a terrific sense of humour: there is one passage, told in the first person by Fay, that made me genuinely laugh out loud. There was nothing I wanted more than to see these two damaged people back together; yet I didn't see how it was possible.

Linda Gillard does not shy away from difficult subjects, and Magnus does something to Fay that makes the reader reel; yet for all his faults, I never once stopped liking him. The denouement is absolutely gripping.

I'm not one of those who has lost faith in traditional publishing - which makes me all the more bewildered that this brave, timely novel did not find a home with a big publishing house. Come on, somebody: grab it. It's not too late."

Author & poet, Mandy Haggith reviewing in NORTHWORDS NOW:
"... A romantic novel in her reliably readable and intelligent style and, as I have come to expect, at its centre is a deliciously complex and intriguing man... This is a marvellous story about healing and self-preservation."

An excerpt from a review on web designer Bill Marshall's blog, ENIGMA VARIATIONS:

"The scene for much of the important action is a once ruined Scottish tower house which Magnus has rebuilt, and as events unfold and we get sections of past storyline - something that the author handles seamlessly and better than any other I've read - we gradually see her talent in using the house's symbolism, connecting interwoven plotlines through it, and connecting it to the past events which have shaped the characters' lives and brought them to where they are.

As is the case with all of her books, this one has a couple of unexpected twists which serve to absorb the reader ever more deeply in the story and to shed much more light on the characters than could have been done by any form of exposition. We come to understand them and appreciate the reasons for their mistakes even as we pray that they won't make them. We feel their yearnings, we cry with them when things look black and impossible, and we feel the shiver running down our spine when the tension becomes unbearable. (You'll know what I mean when you read it!)"

An excerpt from a review by Jill Broderick on the US book blog RhapsodyinBooks
"I especially appreciated how the author shows what PTSD would look like after 25 or 30 years, rather than only portraying the situation immediately after a soldier returns. And though it's central, it's also not central, in that it's just something that affects the relationship of the main characters, rather than An Issue about which the author wants to browbeat us.

The characters are all endearing, flaws and all, and moreover, one can't help falling for Magnus, with his appealing mix of reputed good looks, sexual prowess, vulnerability and heroism... This author is funny, smart, sensitive, and has a great feel for romance, and it all comes out in her work. Highly recommended!"

An excerpt from a review by Sandy Nachlinger on Boomers and Books
"The story is compelling and the characters are strong and never dull. But the passages describing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are what I'll remember most. The author takes us inside the head of Magnus, a soldier who has served in the Falklands and other combat zones, as a member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. In other words, he defused bombs. Not only does the author give Magnus's point of view during his PTSD episodes, she shows his wife Fay's experience as well. Seeing the disorder from both viewpoints gives a compelling picture of just how devastating this illness can be. The author's ability to go deep inside her characters made this a book I won't soon forget."

A 5-star Amazon UK review from author Nicola Slade:
"Well, that was a surprise!... I was quite sure that my favourite was, and always would be, STAR GAZING. It'll certainly stay with me as a memorable story but my goodness, UNTYING THE KNOT has leaped up into first place now. You think it's going to be a 'can't live with him, can't live without him' sort of book, and so it is, but it's so much more. There are twists and turns, passions unleashed, violence and tenderness, emotions all over the place coming at you from all corners so that you're never sure where your allegiance lies, with Fay or Magnus - or with neither of them. In amongst the turmoil there are moments of great peace when the reader and the protagonists can take a moment's rest, then all hell breaks out again. Not a comfortable book but written with a clear-sighted sympathy, this is a story that will stay with you."

Linda Gillard pictured at Brodie Castle with her
daughter, Amy Glover.

A review by author Tahlia Newland blogging at Awesome indies

"UNTYING THE KNOT is another deeply moving and skilfully executed novel by Linda Gillard. I am totally in awe of this author. Once again, she had me committed to her characters and caught up in their lives from the first few pages, then weeping for joy at the end.

Essentially, this novel is about the hidden cost of war. During a war soldiers are in the public eye and in our thoughts, but afterwards, most of us think no more about those who returned and if we do, we probably consider them the lucky ones. This book rouses your empathy for those men who fought and returned, wounded not only in body, but also in spirit. Doctors can put their bodies back together relatively easily these days, but the psychological scars can continue for the rest of the men's lives. More soldiers committed suicide after the Falklands war than died during it, and Magnus, the psychologically damaged war hero in this story, has considered it. The scene where he tells his estranged wife, Fay, why he decided against suicide is one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read.

Being an army wife, facing long periods without your husband and never knowing if he will come back is hard enough, but Magnus's post-traumatic stress disorder has had devastating effects on his family, leading to his wife's breakdown and their divorce. The story is set around the events leading up to, during and directly after a party in honour of the estranged couple's daughter's engagement. The background events are revealed in flashbacks and memories as the present day story unfolds, and the further we get into the story, the deeper and more powerful the recollections of the past become. Near the end, through Gillard's skilful writing, we experience Magnus's torment as if we were him. My desire to take this damaged man and care for him became incredibly strong, yet all romantic notions of love conquering all were cut through with the starkly illuminated reality of the stresses of life as a carer of someone with his condition.

Sometimes, as Fay says, love just isn't enough. However, there is something incredibly inspiring about a love that doesn't die despite all the odds, and a man that is stubborn enough to never give it up, even when it has apparently long since flown. Magnus is that man, and no matter how close to madness he is, he is always the hero. His nobility shines through his actions and most particularly in the exquisite words of the letter to Fay, that he carried close to his heart in a waterproof bag at all times, a letter that was to be delivered to her on the occasion of his death. The scene where he reads it to her is another piece of incredibly moving writing.

Books that we call literature - and without a doubt, this book deserves that label - apart from being beautifully written, illuminate our lives in some way, and this one made me realise that love is sometimes right there in front of us, solid and dependable, but hidden beneath our belief that it's gone. All we have to do is look without the baggage that caused us to believe it gone in the first place.

Everyone should read this book."

From a review by Cally Phillips writing in the Indie Ebook Review:

"Tackling mental health and love in one novel is enough of a challenge, but keeping it 'real' is even more of one and yet this is what Gillard achieves time and again. It's a sign of her mastery of the novel form that she manages to pull off something quite difficult in her character creation. While they are all recognisable characters (just like you and me perhaps, a bit ordinary and certainly not stock aspirational romantic fiction characters), at times the reader just wants to shout at or shake the characters to tell them to act differently! Daring to write characters like this is brave. And it works. Beautifully."

This review and personal account by Jan Marlowe of her involvement with the writing of UNTYING THE KNOT first appeared on the textiles blog, Isisjem - The Creative Life & Times.

Patchwork made by Jan Marlowe in response
to reading UNTYING THE KNOT.

I was really excited this morning to find that Linda Gillard's new book UNTYING THE KNOT is now available for Kindle. I first got to know of Linda's work through Bookcrossing.com. When I was making my hexagon charm quilt Linda, a fellow quilter, was kind enough to send me some fabric from her stash to include.

Just over a year ago a chance comment on Linda Gillard's Facebook fan page, in response to her posting the first chapter of a new novel, resulted in her offering to email me the draft text of UTK for me to read.

I confess if any other author had offered me a novel of theirs, which I would have had to read via my old lap top, I may have been reluctant. Spending so much time at work in front of a computer did little to endear me to reading for pleasure on a screen. However, I'd found all of Linda's previous books hard to put down and having read the opening few lines already, I knew this was too good an opportunity to pass up. In fact had she offered to have sent me this story written in crayon on rolls of Andrex I'd have said YES PLEASE!

I still remember when the novel arrived in my inbox. I thought I'd just read a bit, however once I'd started I couldn't stop. When I finished I emailed Linda to tell her the reason I'd not acknowledged safe receipt of the novel was because I'd been caught up with reading it. Linda replied to say: "Wow! You already finished it?!!"

You see, UNTYING THE KNOT spoke to me on so many levels. The story centres around the relationship between Fay, who makes art quilts and Magnus the war hero husband she's divorced. Their relationship, like so many Military relationships has broken down after years of Magnus suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and channelling his energies into restoring a ruined 16th century Tower House in the wild, but beautiful Scottish Countryside, became the final straw for Fay.

When their daughter Emily announces she's marrying, it becomes clear to Fay why this is an unsuitable match. Magnus too is getting remarried, forcing Fay to confront her history with Magnus and her feelings, before she can fully move into the future...

It's hard for me to tell you more about this novel as I don't want to give too much away. In this story you will find romance, psychological drama, laugh-out-loud moments and characters you feel you've known always and care about; all set in an evocative and at times haunting Scottish backdrop.

P.S. You know how you often open up a book and see thank yous to people from the author? You probably wonder who they are and what they contributed? Well, I get a thank you in this book! I now have my name in print!!! It's probably the nearest I will ever get to being 'published' ! All because the story of a quilter and her soldier love spoke to me...


(If you'd like to read more about the making of this textile panel, see Jan's blog where she describes her creative process.)