Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

Emotional Geology


  • Series: Ulverscroft General Fiction
  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print Books; Lrg Una edition (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846178576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846178573

I truly enjoyed Gillard’s first book Emotional Geology, and thought it so beautifully lyrical in style I read it very slowly, to savor every word. If it had a flaw I’d say it was the graphic, raw nature of both the sex and the language of the main character. It’s not that I’m a prude that way. Not at all, but I’m just not one for overly graphic language or sex scenes in general.  A personal call, and there you have it. But the rest of that book was so lovely, and the story so wonderful, the bit about the graphic nature didn’t mar my enjoyment.  Her latest, though, A Lifetime Burning, is brilliant in every way, start to finish.

What’s somewhat surprising about that is the fact the premise of this book hinges on what could only be termed rampant incest within the family, which is the focus of the plot. There are multiple incestuous layers, which you’d think I’d find more disturbing considering my minor criticism of Gillard’s first book, but the simple fact is this book is so wonderfully written as to present the reader with a completely non-judgmental exploration of what is love, and what should the limits be when pursuing something you believe to be “the real thing.”  I found myself forgetting the taboo nature of the love, so wrapped up I was in the beauty of the raw need and complete, encompassing love between the characters.  The fact it was incest was, of course, disturbing, but Gillard manages to work her way beyond that, finding just the right perspective that made the reader feel less uncomfortable, though just aware enough to see there was a horrible element to it.  In short, the book is masterful and shows a huge leap of sophistication from Emotional Geology, which was at the same time one of the most outstanding first novels I believe I’ve ever read.

A Lifetime Burning is just unearthly beautiful in terms of prose style and lyrical quality.  The language is gorgeous and lush, and if the author falters anywhere it’s at that hideously difficult three-quarters mark, building up to the climax, when so very many writers seem to have a difficult time filling the space.  But even there, when the plot slows down a bit, my interest never actually flagged. I noted the bit slower pace of things, the slight slowing of the prose, but just as soon as I had the chance to notice it was happening things took off at a brilliant clip again, never to slow down again so much as a hair.

I will be recommending this book to everyone I know who enjoys reading contemporary literary fiction. I found it tremendously moving, and even the day after finishing it I continue to find it positively haunting.  I will temper my recommendation to others by adding a caveat about the theme, as the issues raised could be very painful to some, but there will be no strong warning. It’s simply not needed,  given the deft way Gillard handles the subject. The sheer beauty of this book is its biggest recommendation, and this book deserves a wide readership.  I’ll be waiting very anxiously for Gillard’s next offering.


Linda Gillard’s website

The Guardian: Linda Gillard on Self Publishing

Normblog Interview


Road to Talisker Bay, Isle of SkyeIsle of Sky – Photo Credit: Jerome Lorieau

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