Untying the Knot is a beautiful, character-driven novel, depicting the devastating consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting from a life spent in war zones, making bombs safe. Magnus has been severely affected by his former role, traumatised by flashbacks and scarred by horrendous memories, and his now ex-wife Fay has borne the brunt of his erratic behaviour until one day she could take no more, and she finally left him and moved on.
Magnus now has a new partner, Nina, who lives with him in the home that he previously shared with Fay. Tullibardine `Tully' Tower, a place that takes on such an important role in the novel that it is like a character in itself, a formidable old 16th-century ruin, that Magnus insisted on taking on, restoring, against all protests from Fay that it was too much. Daughter Emily remained with her father, and has a new love, Rick, and there is talk of marriage.
This is another beautifully written, emotional novel with depth in terms of characterisation and plot. I will be honest and admit I have genuinely loved and enjoyed reading every book that I have read by this author, but this one is probably my favourite. I am keen to read it again. It was one of the very first books I read on my Kindle and it was certainly a fine one to being with! I was gripped by this story and felt drawn into the characters' lives.
I loved the way the characters were revealed in the opening chapter and thought this was very cleverly written. Linda Gillard has done her research on the topics incorporated into the story here, and has handled them sensitively but always with realism.
The idea of memory is strong in this novel. For Magnus, memories are rife with 'demons.' Fay meanwhile deals with the memories of others, creating textiles for people, 'picture-histories':
'I spend my working life preserving other people's memories, trying to capture them in a form of textile 'still life', but I spent much of my marriage watching the man I loved being tortured - all but destroyed - by the demons of memory.'
Another strong emotion felt by Fay is fear: 'I was scared...Scared of how much I loved Magnus; how much my body wanted him; how much he wanted me; how I might fail him; how he might fail me;...I was scared of how ill Magnus was and how ill he'd always be...'
I enjoyed discovering aspects of the old tower and the history of the place which were described within the book.
There was also surprise and humour alongside the sadness and the more serious elements of the storyline.
This author seems to grasp how to write convincingly about love and emotion, the highs and lows, the intense passion and the deep pain, none more intense than that shared between Magnus and Fay here.
They are rounded characters who are flawed, scarred, confused, vulnerable and therefore so very human, so believable, and so compelling for the reader. They may be able to live without each other, but have they ever stopped loving each other?
The ending is thrilling and brilliant!
I think the cover of this one is beautiful.
A marvellous read.
on 27 March 2012
I have been a fan of Linda Gillard since I first discovered her writing in 2007 and I have enjoyed each and every one of them. For me the most exciting thing about starting her latest novel is the not knowing exactly what you are going to be getting within the pages. So far with each new title she has changed tack somewhat in her writing style and I suspect this is why she does not conveniently fit a publishers mould.
Untying the Knot, met all my expectations, except for the cover which I somehow feel does not do justice to the story. There was for me no connection with this and the story, but I knew little about it when I started reading. Unlike many readers I try to avoid reading too much information about a novel until after I have read it, which is why I dislike spoilers in reviews. If you like to learn more about the background of a novel before you read it, Linda has written a fabulous piece about Untying the Knot which does not contain spoilers but may help you decide if this is one for you. I certainly hope it is as by Linda's own admission it has been the hardest of her novels to write and I think she has tackled the difficult subjects raised with great compassion.
The protagonists are Fay and Magnus a divorced couple that seem unable to move on with their lives, due to their 'indissoluble bond'. Magnus returned from the Falklands War with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Fay was not the strong army wife that she feels she should have been. Now five years after their divorce with regrets behind them, they are both still making dreadful decisions about their lives. Linking them together still is their daughter Emily and the fact that Fay is friendly with her ex mother in law Jessie.
The emotion and humour within the story is perfectly balanced as the narrative of Fay and Magnus's love unfolds. Fay is now working artistically with textiles and Magnus is restoring Tullibardine Tower which was once their home together and features strongly. You may not like their behaviour at times, particularly one situation they get themselves into, but these are realistic characters and sadly for people with their histories, entirely credible.
Why did I enjoy this so much? Well I think besides it being another well written story from a favourite author with a great plot and a fabulous ending, it felt real. You cannot fail to relate to at least some of the issues raised within the pages, well worth reading.
I would love to know what you think of Linda Gillard's writing, or if you have not read any of her novels I urge you to do so. My recommendation would be to read them in order of publication, as I felt that with each novel her writing just kept getting better. Can she keep up the standard well I hope so as I am already looking forward to the next one.
What do you do when you love someone but can no longer live with them? That's the dilemma facing Fay McGillivray when she leaves her husband, Magnus. Magnus has been a career soldier, working in bomb disposal. His postings have been to Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf. Fay lived with the tension of being an Army wife for years, wondering if she'd ever see Magnus again every time he went back on duty. Then, the call came that Fay had always dreaded, Magnus had been badly injured in a bomb blast in Derry. And it wasn't just the physical scars, it was the mental torment that tore them apart. Magnus suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The flashbacks, the nightmares, the blank spots where he doesn't remember where he is or what he's done. As part of Magnus's recovery, he decides to buy Tullibardine Tower, a rundown ruin of a castle, & restore it. Hard physical work & solitude begin to heal Magnus but they drive Fay to the edge. Two years in a caravan on a windswept building site is more than Fay can stand. Their daughter Emily stays with her father & Fay begins a new life.
Fay starts again. She begins working seriously as a textile artist & finds some success. Her relationship with Emily suffers but she has a warm friendship with Magnus's mother, Jessie, a woman with secrets of her own. Her relationships with men are pretty disastrous because she compares them all to Magnus - & no one can compare. Magnus is still at Tully Tower, living with Nina, a young teacher who longs for a commitment from Magnus that he's not able to give. When Magnus turns up at an exhibition of Fay's work, she has to confront her feelings about him, their marriage & the reasons why she left.
Untying the Knot is a complex novel. It's not always easy to read. Magnus's illness makes for harrowing reading. But, there's also humour, beautiful characterisation & a compelling story of two people who should be together - if they can only work out how.
on 26 August 2012
Well, that was a surprise! I've known Linda Gillard since we were both debut authors with Transita Ltd and I've read all her books. 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.
on 10 December 2012
The protagonists in this story are Magnus and Fay, in their forties, divorced from each other, but still tied together through their daughter Emily and the experiences they shared in their marriage. Magnus was a war hero but was damaged by what he went through and Fay had to eventually admit defeat in coping with his PTSD. Living apart has brought them both a degree of relief but when Emily becomes engaged and they have to share in the celebration the emotional fallout affects everyone. The main characters are both attractive to the reader, as are the more subsidiary ones, there are no "baddies" and I found myself involved with them all. PTSD has been called the "invisible" injury of war and it is dealt with most sympathetically in this book. I loved this story and was sorry when I finished it. I will definitely look for other books by the same author.
on 28 September 2011
This book is haunting but compelling. The irresistible, but damaged hero, Magnus, has stayed with me long after I finished reading. Linda Gillard doesn't shy away from difficult issues and her heroine is torn between her sanity and the love of her life.
The opening paragraphs struck such a chord with me and then I was hooked. I quote - `Mistakes once made are rarely reversible. The holes they leave in the fabric of life aren't tiny and they can't be scratched away. You have to live with them the best you can.' The tension in the climax had me reading frantically. I didn't want this book to end.
Linda has a magical way of evoking characters and settings. I have loved all of her books and can't wait for more.
on 4 September 2013
I don't think the official blurb does this book justice, there is just so much more to this book than meets the eye but to say more would be to ruin it. Needless to say I enjoyed this book as it was both charming and utterly heart-breaking at the same time plus it had some rather funny moments as well. Gillard has taken the genre of chick lit to a whole new level; Untying the Knot is well-written, intelligent, witty, dramatic, but also has some real substance to it tackling difficult issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
(I received a free copy of Untying the Knot from the author in return for my honest opinion)
Fay and Magnus share a past even in the present.
Fay and Magnus share a daughter.
Fay and Magnus share the fact they have both saved each other's lives.
Fay and Magnus share their love for each other.
But Fay and Magnus are divorced and for one of them, there seems to be no turning back.
This is the fifth novel by Linda Gillard and it certainly lives up to previous ones. Published straight as an eBook because publishers seem to have money signs in front of their eyes and not good quality writing this is a must read for 2011.
Fay is exhibiting her textile work at a local gallery when she spots a tall man admiring one particular piece of work which is based on his family tree inn fact. The man is her ex husband Magnus who through the course of the book we see declare his love for his ex wife. Drawn back into his life through events they both find there is a place for heroes and heroines in a marriage but is it too late.
Like her previous novels Gillard draws on her experience and brings perhaps different themes to her novels but all with a purpose, to educate, to entertain and also to acknowledge these emotional problems that many people suffer from. Untying the Knot deals very well with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and brings in to the forefront the experiences that our soldiers have to deal with when fighting. Magnus is ex army, invalided out after a career in Bomb Disposal and it is this where his relationship with Fay changes, their roles changes. Magnus becomes the patient, Fay becomes the carer. Fay does not remember this being part of the deal when she married him and she should stand by him.
The flashbacks that Magnus relives throughout the book were so strong and evocative, I could feel my heart racing, as he went out of his way to protect to himself and his family, his mind in the past his actions in the future. Gillard's suggestive description is found with the landscape of Scotland and the bleakness of the tower that Magnus bought to build a future. The cold of the stone, the sound of the walls, the structure of the tower itself, everything is brought to life for the reader to experience.
A book that you must read, for so many reasons; I learnt so much about PTSD and the effect flashbacks must have on our Armed Forces returning from today's conflicts as well as those of the past I am sure will resonate with many. Perhaps for some reading this will help others understand a little bit more. Linda Gillard deals so well with mental illness and somehow makes it a romance and a page turner all in one, with humour running throughout. Her books are about life and therefore deserve to be read.
on 24 August 2014
When a handsome man arrives uninvited to Fay's textile exhibition, the door to her past is pushed open. Once she & Magnus were married but after 5 years of divorce their lives have moved on... or have they? There's still a spark of energy there but their tangled, knotted history is like Fay's work; comprised of pieces of ther people's lives sewn into their own, mysteries, secrets and emotions woven together with bloodshed and hope.
On the surface they seem to have stepped into a settled future without each other, not realising they've failed to come to terms with their past. When their daughter Emily introduces her fiance Rick, Fay turns to Magnus in need and unwittingly sets an explosion in motion.
I've read one other Linda Gillard & enjoyed it as a piece of light romance. There's romance and heady emotion in 'Untying The Knot' in spades, along with a renovated Scottish tower house and a good sense of humour. This carries more depth than my previous read. Magnus suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result primarily of his army career. The depiction of the effect this has on the person who cares for him is finely balanced, touching an often over-looked impact that caring can have on mental health.
Raced through this in one sitting & enjoyed it. Even feel I should pick up a needle thread but know I'm rubbish at housecraft! If you like this try Mary Stewart's 'Wildfire At Midnight' or perhaps William Riviere's 'Echoes Of War', where fragile lives damaged by conflict create a patchwork whole.
on 19 March 2012
I was compelled to write a brief review, because the book moved me so much. This is my third book by Linda and very much my favourite so far.
It is the story of Fay and Magnus. They love each other beyond all else, but cannot live together. Magnus, a war hero, suffers from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because of his previous life in the Army where he was a bomb disposal expert. Fay leaves him, but they both know that although they cannot live together, they cannot live apart either.
The story is a mixture of comedy and tragedy - certain parts had me laughing out loud, whilst others had me close to tears.
The ending was the most amazing, heart stopping ending I have read for a long time. Just the most moving and realistic piece of writing.
Of all Linda's hero's, Magnus was the one I really loved. Fay, with her quirky humour, was someone I could really relate to. Other characters in the book are so lifelike - I've met some of them in my own life - poor Nina's mother was a classic!
It is not Romance and it is definitely not Chick Lit, but a beautiful, sensitive story of people one can relate to.
There was a lot of humour in this book - and a lot of tragedy - I loved it.
I'm so glad I have discovered Linda Gillard.