Tuesday 4 February 2014

Cauldstane: Linda Gillard, reviewed by Kathleen Jones


by Linda Gillard

Since I discovered The House of Silence, I've been reading Linda Gillard's award-winning novels and wondering why on earth her publisher ever allowed her to go 'Indie'.  She's providing exactly what readers seem to want - a rattling good story, interesting characters, romance, real dilemmas and traumas we can all empathise with, and an original mix of genre elements.  If you like this recipe, you're never going to get bored.  Not all Linda's books are to my taste, but the writing is always impeccable.

I've followed the genesis of Cauldstane via Linda's Facebook author page and been intrigued by the little snippets she's shared.  I also admired her determination to press on with the book through the long recovery process of a serious brush with cancer.  Her honesty and integrity in sharing her journey gave me a greater respect for her skills as an author.  This is someone who writes about traumatic human situations with personal knowledge.  It's this compassion and empathy that inform the pages of this unusual novel. Think Northanger Abbey meets Daphne du Maurier and Bridget Jones with a bit of Downton Abbey thrown in. It's absolutely modern and gloriously gothic.

There's a remote and decrepit Scottish castle, (with a curse attached, of course), a wicked stepmother, a feisty but emotionally vulnerable heroine, more handsome men than you can shake a sword at, and a very dangerous ghost.  The main male character, Sholto, has made a career out of adventure, but is now getting old, short of money to keep the roof over his head intact, and wants to tell his sometimes scandalous life story.  He has chosen J.J. Ryan to ghost-write it for him, picking the name from a Society of Authors list of recommendations without realising that J.J. is a woman.  Jenny falls in love with Cauldstane and its occupants and is totally committed to the project, until ghost-writing of another kind comes between her and the family.  To tell you more would be to spoil the plot, so I won't.

I'm not a great fan of the Gothic genre, though I did read quite a lot of it when I was younger, but this novel is a really good read and I was happy to suspend disbelief and just enjoy myself between the covers.  It could only be improved by being read with a stiff malt whisky in one hand and a plate of Mrs Guthrie's ginger cakes on the side!

Kathleen Jones writes fiction, poetry and biography and blogs over at 'A Writer's Life'.


The Sun's Companion, published by The Book Mill, 2013

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