18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
'A canny and a clannish lot.',
This review is from: A LIFETIME BURNING (Kindle Edition)
As I write this, I am still thinking about this novel; it has stayed very much in my mind for days since finishing it. It is an enthralling, gripping story of several generations of the Dunbar family, and of forbidden, hopeless love that has tragic consequences. At the heart of the novel are twins Flora and Rory. Flora describes Rory as `my twin brother, my childhood companion, the other half of my life, the other half of my self', bringing to mind the feelings Cathy has about Heathcliff in `Wuthering Heights', of one not being whole without the other. I think it would be wrong to reveal much of the plot and themes here, as it adds so much to the experience of reading this novel if you discover it all for yourself page by page. Suffice it to say that the relationship between Flora and her nephew Colin, which is revealed in the synopsis of the novel, is by no means the only unorthodox pairing here. Music plays an important role in the book, with Rory emerging as a talented pianist, leaving Flora in his shadow. And endeavouring to be good, and `the possibility of loving and being loved in return', drives Flora and Hugh in particular.
The structure is inspired; the novel covers the years from the 1940's until 2000, but it is not a linear narrative, rather the author takes us backwards and forwards in time, and allows us to visit certain moments in the characters' lives. As the reader gets deeper into the novel, events take on new meanings, or more weight is given to a certain conversation or meeting, and truths are revealed. On finishing the book I, like many other readers, was keen to return to the first pages and read them again, knowing what I then knew, and understanding so much more. Flora Dunbar narrates parts of the story from beyond the grave; the rest is third-person narration upon which Flora can then comment with the benefit of hindsight.
It's an absorbing, brave and unforgettable book, from a talented writer. The dialogue flows easily; the characters are so well drawn that they leap from the page; they are loved, rejected, damaged, hopeful, damned and loved again, and they grow and change through the timescale covered in the novel. As a reader it makes you think, question and ponder, and though you may not like some of the characters and their actions, they are nevertheless compelling. A thoroughly riveting read.