“Rose Leonard is on the run from her life. Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she’d hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has in fact chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter, and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise. But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her?”
There’s the setting: The terrain of North Uist, from looming rock faces to the smooth side of a pebble, plays a pivotal role. The landscape shapes and often appears in Rose’s textile art; the allure and danger the cliffs and mountains represent is ever present, a source of heartache in a previous relationship; the comfort to be found, surrounded by trees, and the quiet that embraces her new home. And, really, the story itself is every bit as rocky as those mountains, one’s footing never assured. Metaphors and themes aside, the descriptions are lovely and visual.
There’s Rose, who struck me with her honesty, and surprised me with her willingness to be open and up front about her mental illness. Her unease at times is palpable, as is her despair, which makes for a successful emotional hook. Too, the narration, which occasionally switches from first person to third, keeps you slightly off balanced, echoing, I believe, Rose’s state of mind. (The switch, when it happens, isn’t jarring though, if that’s a point of concern.) And there’s Calum who had me at, well, Calum. But then he reinforced his hold with his patience, the depth of his own fears, and the way he interacts with the children he teaches. It doesn’t hurt that Scotland is there in his voice, an unintentional seductive punch. To say the least, I became quite invested in the pair, separately and as a couple.
Everything about this book is treated with frankness: Mental illness, sex, grief, betrayal. No punches pulled here. And the decisive nature of the characters beautifully supports the relationships, whether mature and earned or struggling and painful, encountered in the story.
I’ve hinted to those wanting a wishlist from me that Emotional Geology would make a lovely gift – I know there will be times when I’ll want to revisit the characters, to reread certain passages – and that Gillard’s other novel, Star Gazing, would be most welcome as well. And because that’s so I must once again thank Angie for pointing me not only in the right direction, but in one I might not have headed towards otherwise.