Emotional Geology – Linda Gillard

This is the story of Rose Leonard who is running away from her life. She ends up on the island of Uist off mainland Scotland where she joins a community who do not judge her and just accept her. Accept her is the mad woman who wants to live alone in a place she was not brought up to.

But living alone is what Rose wants; she can throw herself into her work creating textiles from scraps of materials that are displayed as pieces of art work. Making quilts to help keep her focussed and stop drifting back to the past which is still running after her.

Rose knows she needs to bury her ghosts of the past and her new life here gives her the opportunity to do so. Calum becomes Rose’s help who props Rose up physically and emotionally and who recognises the demons that some of us have to fight on a daily basis. Can Rose cope with this help or should she stick to what she thinks is the best way of dealing with her life, being isolated, alone and in silence where nothing can touch her?

Linda Gillard’s book has so many different elements to it. It is a love story between Rose and Calum. Calum is portrayed as the wonderful man, who comes along and sweeps women off their feet into his arms and protects. His role as a teacher makes him all the more endearing and even the fact that he can cook helps. I would be convinced by him to eat proper porridge! The relationship between the two characters is so emotionally charged, that you can feel it coming off the page. I had to keep reading, I wanted to see what would happen to two characters I could relate to but grew to love from very early on in the book.

Gillard also deals with mental illness in such a careful measured tender way, that you would actually not realise that she has given her main character, Rose Bi-Polar Disorder (Manic Depression). As the book goes on, you are not really sure what Rose is running from. But as you read you fit the pieces together, a bit like picking stones up off the beach until you have filled your bucket and can carry no more. As readers we find all we can and then we have to hope that Rose makes the right decision for herself.

The subject is dealt with so effectively that I would recommend it as essential reading to someone who has little or no knowledge on this particular order but also other depressive illness. It resonates on so many levels even sufferers can pick up the strands of thought and understand.

The scenery and imagery of the cottage where Rose lives is depicted that I could feel the wet weather start to seep in my bones as I could the wind blow the fresh air through and clear the head. This is a place where you have to be very hardy all year round to tolerate the seasons. Geology of the landscape is described as the basis not just of the title of the book, but also Roses projects to get working again but this time collaborating with Calum.

An excellent read a must in fact. Linda Gillard manages to create a tale so clear, tight and concise I actually wished the book would last for another 300 pages. An author who can cross genres in all her books and even in chapters within the books is well worth a read to anyone that wants a change.

I read this book in a day. That is how good it was and is. It is a book which I will keep on my shelf and know I will read it again and again. I picked the book up at the right time for me and it was like receiving some sort of treatment. I felt so drained reading the book that it was the most wonderful feeling and even more so when you recognise someone else out there understands. I left it a couple of days before I wrote my review  because I was so emotional about the book, I am not sure what I would have typed. 

As a sufferer of depression, though not the same category as Rose, there was much I could recognise. The feeling of just wanting to sleep, sleep and sleep some more. The throwing yourself into some sort of purpose, crafts in my case as well. There gives a satisfaction for me that I have achieved something, no matter how small it seems it is an achievement and all forms my wellness plan that I have. Even if I think today I will clean one drawer out – it is an achievement and for that I feel better. I love keeping lists, I feel I am prepared. Reading has also become another form of coping. Immersing myself has been a joy and this blog has then helped me witter on. All my little strategies work for me, but it has taken some time and heartache to find the ones that do. Everyone is different and this book certainly recognises that. 

Do not think that a book on such a subject is depressing in itself. I can understand why people would think that, but it really isn’t the books can reach out to you on so many levels and appeal to so many readers of different genres. I know that Linda Gillard has faced some publishing problems because of this and that is why her books are available as e books including her latest one House of Silence which I reviewed here

Thank you to Linda Gillard for sending me a copy of this book. I shall treasure it and know I will read it again. If you want to know more about Linda’s books and Linda herself then pop over to her website

I recommend also reading Patrick Gale – Notes from an Exhibition which also deals with bi-polar disorder. Another book which I found has stayed with me for a long time. 


The Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge!

‘I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’

Running from August until October, a great list of books to choose from. If you want to take part then follow my link here then post a comment and they will be in contact.

The list of 12 books can be found below and I find I have already read and reviewed one! So does anyone recommend any on this list.

1. The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
2. Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll
3. The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas
4. Teacher, Teacher! by Jack Sheffield
5. Death Sentence by Mikkel Birkegaard
6. Crippen by John Boyne
7. Caligula by Douglas Jackson
8. Twelve by Jasper Kent
9. The Obscure Logic of the Heart by Priya Basil
10. Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson
11. The Colour of Death by Michael Cordy
12. Odin’s Mission by James Holland
13. Legacy by Danielle Steel
14. The Water Room by Christopher Fowler
15. The Bomber by Liza Marklund

I like the look of The Sandalwood Tree and there is another Christopher Fowler one which I have not read. Choices choices!


Easily Amused – Karen McQuestion

This could in some ways be pushed as chick-lit book but there was something not quite so superficial about it that you can get with some books. It has something else, which I cannot place. It has a more grown up feel to it.

Lola is hurtling towards her thirtieth birthday, she has a job she loves, good health, a house that has been left to her in her great aunts will in friendly neighbourhood (much to Lola’s dismay) but there is one thing missing any sort of relationship.

When her younger sister Mindy announces that she is bringing forward her wedding to actually be on the day of Lola’s thirtieth, the tension between the two sisters comes to a head when Mindy wants to make a big ‘event’ out of the birthday. Lola cannot think of anything worse than having the fact she is single pointed out to everyone at her younger sisters wedding. But then Mindy does not think of anyone else but herself. Lola needs a man and quick, she has three weeks.

Step forward Hubert, friend since school, who has just split up with his long term girlfriend that Lola never liked. A school teacher who has the patience and care for everyone he meets. Including the neighbours that draw him into their little community whilst he stays temporarily with Lola. But Hubert is reliable; he is always there and is safe. Lola wants something else.

Then steps forward, Ryan who turns out to live in the neighbourhood and offers to be Lola’s not just date for the wedding but pretend fiancé. He is everything that Lola wants, handsome, well dressed, good looking and also a way of scoring points with her sister.  The neighbours and Hubert are not quite sure about Ryan; he is the mystery man of the street that never puts his rubbish out. The neighbours know, in fact they know everything that goes on and it is that which Lola dreads.

So what does Lola do? The only way to find out is to read the book.

Karen McQuestion has developed some characters that you love to hate but also ones that actually irritate you in the beginning, but you actually find yourself changing your mind about by the conclusion of the book.

The neighbours are irritating, they always seem to appear when you least expect or want them to but they do have a habit of being able to help without question. Hubert is such an ineffectual wet blanket, that I had no sympathy with him when his girlfriend finally got the message across that they were finished. However, by the end of the book Hubert takes on a different like and the way he takes to the neighbourhood and helping Lola settle into her Great Aunt’s house sees him grow in strength and character. Lola although determinedly to remain happy about her life, McQuestion portrays her as a confused character, intentionally I feel. She has her life and does not like it being interrupted and routine changed by Hubert, by Ryan, by her neighbours and her sister. Lola needs to find out how life is good when it is interrupted from the norm.

A good book, and although based in Wisconsin, America the few remarks which non–Americans might find difficult to understand as I did this does not detract from the books and McQuestion is definitely an author to look out for.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me to review this book. 



Five Little Pigs – Book v TV adaptation

I have watched many Agatha Christie TV adaptations, in fact grew up with them but I of late I have become much more interested in the novels and am enjoying reading them immensely. However, I am interested in how much is ‘edited’ for the tv to fit a novel into a two hour prime time slot, currently on ITV.

The latest novel that I have read is Five Little Pigs because it was on one Saturday tea time, I knew who had committed the crime but I always found it a rather good adaptation. Was the book as good? Yes in fact it was better. Had much been changed for the TV? Well not that much. Do not read on if you have not read the book, I may well inadvertently give something away but I try not to.

  1. Carla Lemarchant, Caroline Crale’s daughter had a name change from Carla to Lucy. Presumably because Carla was actually Caroline and it may have caused some confusion for the viewers. Lucy as she became did not have a fiancée in the programme.
  2. Caroline was executed in the book for some reason leniency was given but she died a year into her sentence. Of what we are never told.
  3. Lucy/Carla/Caroline does not point a gun at the real perpetrator of the crime. The perpetrator simply leaves the building. No doubt again for dramatic televisual affect this was undertaken. But I have to say in some ways unnecessary as in the book, it was a perfect ending and enough tension to think someone will walk free as the evidence was merely inference.

There is also a change of affection between two of the characters, which brought in an element of homosexuality. They seem to do this in the TV adaptations, for what reason I have yet to understand but it in my opinion makes no difference whatsoever to the plot.

The five little pigs, this time in pictures

This little piggy went to market.

Philip Blake played by Toby Stephens

This little piggy stayed at home.

Meredith Blake played by Marc Warren

This little piggy had roast beef,

Elsa Greer played by Julie Cox

This little piggy had none.

Miss Williams played by Gemma Jones

And this little piggy went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home

Angela Warren played by Tallulah Riley

Please note that Angela Warren shown here being played by Riley was the younger Angela she was then played by Sophie Winkleman to show her age some 16 years later.

It is certainly an adaptation worthy of watching and is something I can watch again and again even though I know the outcome, sometimes it is good to go back and watch for the clues, the red herrings and the workings of the little grey cells.


Five Little Pigs – Agatha Christie

This little piggy went to market.

This little piggy stayed at home.

This little piggy had roast beef,

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home

This in my opinion is on the best Agatha Christie novels for its plot and structure. Using the idea of a nursery rhyme Christie has Hercule Poirot embark on revealing the truth about a murder that was committed 16 years earlier.

Carla Lemarchant comes to Poirot because she knows her mother; Caroline Crale is innocent of killing her father Amyas Crale. But Carla wants to be sure, as she is worried that perhaps there is a hereditary tendency of the women to lash out in extreme anger.  Poirot then embarks on reconstructing the events leading up to Amyas Crale’s death. There are potentially five suspects, Phillip Blake Amyas’ best friend, Meredith Blake, Phillip’s brother and neighbour of Amyas. Elsa Greer, whose portrait Amyas is painting and has got under everyone’s skin. Miss Williams, governess and tutor to Caroline Crale’s sister. And Angela Warren, Caroline’s younger sister of thirteen who Caroline dotes on.

The five suspects, the five little pigs as you will. This particular book shows the method not just of Christie as a writer but one you can imagine Poirot going through himself. With the facts that he has learned from Carla, he revisits everyone connected with the case. The first part of the books is where Poirot visits all those concerned, not just the five but also the defence, the prosecution, the police and the solicitors.

From this as readers we begin to form a picture of Caroline Crale and what may or may not have happened on that fateful day. Part two of the book deals with the narrative of each of the five suspects and shows that how one day can b viewed so differently from each person. However the ultimate conclusion was said by them all apart from one, Caroline killed Amyas.

In the final and third part of the novel, we reach the point which is probably the favourite of many Christie readers – Poirot’s conclusions, his little grey cells working and the dénouement. Five more questions have to be asked after reading the narratives, a reconstruction and then the truth. At this point we find out the truth. Is it a truth that Carla Lemarchant can accept?

The only way to find any of this out is to read the book!

I read this book fairly quickly and its structure and the way it is laid out with Poirot tapped into my great love (or should that be obsession) of organisation.

I know some people pour scorn on Christie use of nursery rhyme titles as titles of her novels – but I think it is a clever tool to build stories around and of seeing how something so innocent can be so devilish in murder! I am sure many of us remember having our toes tickled as babies and that rhyme somehow penetrating the psyche somewhere along the line. 

Allow me to put characters with the appropriate pigs.

This little piggy went to market. Phillip Blake a man who dealt in stocks and shares

This little piggy stayed at home. Meredith Blake the man with an interest in poisons and stays at home to indulge in it.

This little piggy had roast beef, Elsa Greer. The women who has everything, the best now Lady Dittisham

This little piggy had none. Miss Williams, the tutor and governess who leads a simple life but very principled.

And this little piggy went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way home. Angela Warren, Caroline’s sister and rather a boisterous young girl who places no relevance to the actions at the time but only in retrospect and with an adult knowledge does she understand.

The five pigs, the five suspects and one man to solve it all Hercule Poirot. Poirot does not deal with just the facts, if he did then I feel he would not have survived past his first case. Poirot deals with the psychology.

He was fascinated by the problem of personality.

When he talks to the family solicitor of the Crale’s

…I think you are interested in – character, shall we say?”

Poirot replied.

“That, to me, is the principal interest of all my cases”

What fascinates me is how every one sees and event so differently to others. even though they in effect experienced many of the same pleasures, enjoyment and outcome. Fundamentally that is what I suppose makes us all different and Poirot all the more interested in character!

My reason for this choice is because I watched the television adaptation and it is one of the better ones and I waned to see how true to the story it kept. Therefore please look out for my normal post comparing the two – the book and the adaptation. 


The Lady’s Maid: My Life in Service – Rosina Harrison

Although a new book to me this is not a new book as such. First published in the mid-seventies as Rose: My life in Service, this is a book about Rosina ‘Rose’ Harrison who from her humble beginnings in Yorkshire, through to her move into domestic service and her position as a Lady’s Maid to Nancy Astor.

Astor was the first female Member of Parliament and was rather well known in society and the company they kept, George Bernard Shaw, the influence of Christian Science as a religion and the houses they own for example Cliveden and the parties held. But this is a book not about Nancy Astor this is about Rose her ladies maid for nearly 35 years.

Rose could have told us many scandals and secrets of her time, but she readily admits that she has no desire to feed the nosiness of the reader. What she does is tell us the relationship between servants and their employers. The structure of a household in servant terms and how each person played a role, in the efficiency of running big houses as well as their masters and mistresses. There are observations of butlers, gardeners, cooks et al throughout the book. This gives the reader a bigger picture of the servant life and the things they see, they do and have to put up with.

What is important to remember that this book covers a fairly long time period of around 60 years, we have Roses childhood which I think sets the scene for later – it shows Rose’s strength, determination and forthright Yorkshire manner which made her work for so long with Lady Astor. I am sure better women would have given up a long time before!

The relationship of servant and master changed during the war years and the movement of the workforce around the country as well as the world. This is tackled during the book as Rose although called to do ‘war work’ is allowed to stay as Lady Astor’s maid as Astor was doing so much for the people of Plymouth (her constituency) and suffered at the hands of the German bombs more than once.

Rose paints a picture of hard work, which she seemed to thrive on as well as her passion to travel which was fulfilled even if it meant twice as much work for her in packing, unpacking and moving on again. Trips to America were common, as Astor was an American but plenty of travel through Europe as well as into Africa, to visit the many friends and acquaintances of the Astor family.

This book does do some name dropping but merely in reference to what happened between Rose and her ladyship. Churchill, Bernard Shaw, T.E. Lawrence and of course John Profumo. Rose has not fulfilled our desire to know what happened at Cliveden especially with the last name I mention.  Rose is forthright in her approach to her writing, this book is about her and not about what did or did not happen in one of the defining moments of political history in the mid sixties. This is a book ultimately about the relationship between servant and mistress. In this book being republished it has fed into the nation’s apparent current love for all things “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey” and if you like programmes about such things as I do then you will love this book, even more so.

I am a huge fan of  period ‘big house’ dramas and I am convinced this book was republished to cash in on that. I am one of the people who fell for the hype. I am so glad I did. I would love to show you is at the front of the book is a ‘family tree’ of the household servants for the Astor family. It explains the structure of the households, from the Controller of the households to estate maintenance, stud farm, butler, valet, odd men, housekeeper, telephonists and daily maids. A plethora of staff, which Rosina Harrison does touch on throughout the book and explains about their roles and their history. 

This book has also peaked my curiosity about Nancy Astor. A rather formidable woman who was known for her straight talking regarding politics and her scathing wit.  

Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women

The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything… or nothing.

Nancy, American-born, came to England in 1904 and married her second husband Waldorf Astor whom she then succeeded as Conservative MP for the Sutton division of Plymouth in 1919. A champion of women’s rights, she was the first woman MP to sit in the House of Commons (1919-45). During the 1930s the Astors’ house, Cliveden, became the focus of many high-powered political meetings. ironically enough it did some thirty years later in the 1960s. Now I very doubt anything political goes on there , as it is a hotel although no doubt they ay have the money to afford to stay! 


Three Word Days

If you were around last week, you may well have spotted a post about Three Word Days. Borrowed from Simon Mayo Radio 2 – the aim to describe your day in three words. So here is the week just gone past.

Sunday –  Extra Sausage Yum.

Monday – Back to PT

Tuesday – Pound on. Annoyed.

Wednesday – Audit going okay.

Thursday – More PT. Help!

Friday –  40 lengths swam.

Saturday – Haircut and Reading.

I think this week has been either food or exercise related. Probably the only thing that has been keeping me sane, here is to next week and all it brings.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder – Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swenson is the owner of The Cookie Jar, determinedly single with an overbearing mother who is determined to marry her off, and a cat Moshie who found and adopted her. Hannah thinks her life is quite nice, works hard and enjoys it all, that she is happy with her lot in Lake Eden, Minnesota and then she finds a body of someone she knows.

Ron the delivery driver of the local dairy is the body found dead near Hannah’s cafe in his truck with Hannah’s cookies around him. I immediately thought poison, but no the cookies are Ron’s favourites and one of the many that Hannah and her assistant Lisa bake. It was a gunshot, but why was he shot and for what reason? In steps Bill the Sherriff who also happens to be Hannah’s brother in law and Hannah sees herself as Bill’s assistant or snitch as she tries to help solve the murder. However a key witness is missing and Hannah with the help of sister does some of their own detective work and end up with more than they bargained for.

Amongst all this detective work and fending off her mother’s possible love matches Hannah runs her business and spends her time catering for local community events with her renowned cookies. Fluke generously shares these recipes with us all. My mouth was watering after reading all about them. Please be aware for English readers that the measurements are “American” but perhaps some of them are worth a try if cooking is your thing.

This is no doubt pitched as cosy crime and it comes up to that – just. The plot is rather thin and drawn out in parts, and was perhaps not as gripping as other cosy crime books I have read of late. It was gentle enough (despite the murder!) and I do like the community feel that these books have and the added bonus of the cookies means if you know someone who cooks this could be a book for them.  It also has a bonus short story with a Christmas theme.

I found this book challenging to review, not because it was a literary classic and required a lot of thought but because it is too easy to give away everything. The cynic in me often thinks when I read these cosy crime how do these lead characters suddenly get caught up in finding murderers. If you had found a body, would you suddenly want to avenge that crime and find the perpetrator? Probably not, but this is how these cosy crimes work you have to leave these thoughts behind and just enjoy. 

Nonetheless it is what I call absolute pure escapism and you can read the book, (and the next) and then leave it. The only thing that stays is the recipes! Some ideas, that I may well try out when next baking. There are 14 in the series so far, and I assume that by the next title Strawberry Shortcake Murder there will be some recipes of that ilk in amongst the story.

Reading this book made me feel I was being naughty by eating shop bought cookies and not making them myself. In other words I was not reading a book of any particular value! A bizarre correlation but one that I do feel guilty on occasions reading. This all reflects my eclectic reading habits! 


Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

This is the story of Mary Yellan, 23 and orphaned she goes to live with her Aunt Patience who she remembers to be full of life and her new husband Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn on the Bodmin Moor.  What Mary finds when she gets there is something she could never believed. Patience is nothing like the aunt she remembers in fact Patience is a mere shadow of herself, someone who stands behind her husband the larger than life Joss Merlyn who runs Jamaica Inn. Joss though is a large presence in life, in everyone’s face, in business that is not legal, in fact for me he was what made Jamaica Inn large on the landscape of Bodmin Moor.

Mary knows something goes on at the Inn, she is alerted to that fact immediately by the coach reluctantly stopping there, her uncle reiterates that point by telling her that she will sleep with a pillow over head so as to not hear what goes on. Mary vows to seek justice for such a life, where she knows this is not the place for her and thus rescue her aunt and move to a less desolate landscape and prospects.

Upon discovery of the ‘real’ use of the inn, smuggling, Mary is thrown into another world where she fights for survival. The landscape is against her, her uncle is against her and she also discovers that her heart is against her. What path will she chose to take?

If you have not read this book, then I think you have missed out on some excellent writing and an atmospheric novel that made me feel quite bleak in its telling, but so tenacious that I had to keep reading, I wanted to know what happened. The history of the actual Jamaica Inn, which still exists today and the history of smuggling which did go on made for me the story all the more interesting.  I could feel the darkness of Jamaica Inn, I could smell what Mary could smell and I felt the driving rain seeping into my bones as she goes about the surrounding moors, searching for something. The violent actions of the characters, the landscape and the criminals are very descriptive and it draws the reader in.

Whether Mary finds what she is searching for or not I think is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions by the end of the novel. I approached Rebecca in the same way. I think du Maurier has a skill in leading the reader through such a tightly twisted and dark story, that perhaps each reader draws different conclusions. Is this a gothic novel, is it a mystery, is it a romance or is it all three? To be honest it does not matter it is a du Maurier.

There are some wonderfully descriptive passages within this book, that with a review (posted on Amazon) it is sometimes too easy to just regurgitate the book for everyone to read. I think this is why I love being able to post my reviews on my blog and then ‘add’ a bit more to it. 

“It doesn’t do to be curious at Jamaica Inn, and I’ll have you remember that” (Uncle Joss Merlyn to Mary)

As soon as someone says do not be curious about what goes on, we all want to know what is going on and this line early in the book does this to Mary (and us as readers). She wants to know about Jamaica Inn and why a once loved place and stop for coaches has suddenly become the place to be feared. 

I confess there was another quote I wanted to share, and foolishly thought I would remember the page number and did not write it down. I should have written it down! I can imagine rereading this book, and will certainly share more passages. 

However I have enjoyed my time with Daphne du Maurier, and having only read Rebecca wanting to read some more was important. My mum has many if not all of her books at home and I have picked My Cousin Rachel next to read. 

As a little advert for a fellow blogger in October 2011, Simon of Savidge Reads and Polly of Novel Insights are hosting a Discovering Daphne Season, if you have the time pop over and have a look. 

Books · Witterings

Three Word Days

If you are a regular listener to Radio 2 and in particular the Simon Mayo Drivetime Show, you may know that he does a feature throughout the show called ‘Three Word insert day of the week’. If you are not a listener, then the premise of the idea is as such – describe the day you have had or having in 3 words no more. I recognise that they had the idea first, not me!

The week just gone has flow by, and if I had the time I could probably wax quite lyrical regarding what has happened to me this week. But how to sum it all up in a short pithy posts – well in three words.

Sunday – Body Pump Class

Monday – Jamaica Inn Started

Tuesday – Maintained target weight

Wednesday – Strangle lazy colleague?

Thursday – Rain! Rain! Rain!

Friday – Finish Work Early.

Saturday – Jamie Oliver Lunch

So there you go, last week, every day in three words. I wonder what these three words say about the week I have had? Rest assured I have not strangled anyone! Could you sum up your day or week in three words? I challenge you (and myself).