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Michelle

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

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I finished 'Star Gazing' last night, and wanted to let it settle on me before I came out to wax lyrical.

 

Fabulous book. I so enjoyed the points of view being expressed in the way they were, and the gradual unfolding of the characters and the story.

 

I relished that the characters were not utterly lovable. but that they grew on you as the story progressed. The independent and bloody minded blind woman became this intricate and fragile woman, made so not by her blindness, but by her emotions. The rather ditzy sister was shown to be this lonely and endearing woman who had submerged her own life to better serve her sister and her sister's needs. When the affectionate relationship developed with Garth I was so happy for her.

 

And Keir, he of the large body and second sight! How beautifully depicted was he? The tree of a man, the aural postcards, the 'thinking outside the box' approach. Just all of him. Linda knows how to paint a hero you can believe in.

 

It wasn't just the descriptions, it was the experience. It had never occured to me the sheer quantity of 'stuff' that those blind from birth had to take on faith. So many layers, so much to feel.

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I am going to read this book soon as I enjoyed Emotional Geology so much, am just waiting for my copy from the library

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It's like you read my mind, Chrissy.:friends0: You have responded exactly as I'd hoped readers would to the "journeys" that Marianne and Louisa make. Many readers have enjoyed the book but some have referred to wanting to "slap Marianne" (a disturbing comment since the poor woman's blind!) and some detractors have said Keir is too good to be true (which I thought reflected low reader expectations of men in general!). All 4 STAR GAZING characters are very different people, in very different places by the end of the book. What you see at the beginning of the book is definitely not what you get.

 

Editors seem to think the main attribute of a character in popular fiction should be that s/he is likeable. I disagree. I think the essential characteristic is that they should be interesting and if possible, surprising. When I'm teaching writing workshops I suggest to students that if they want a character to come to life, they should occasionally allow their creation to act out of character. People do! And there is a great deal of interest, energy and sometimes humour in a character behaving in a surprising way. (Ditzy Louisa tackling the mugger for example.)

 

I started writing STAR GAZING a few months after my father had taken 2 years to die of stomach cancer. I wanted to write a warm, comforting book, what some readers like to call a "hot water bottle read". I so enjoyed creating the characters (especially Garth the Goth.) I'm really chuffed to hear readers are enjoying them as well. :razz:

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Garth, and his friendly chain jingles? Doesn't that conjure so much? I actually gave a laugh of delight at that little segment of conversation.

 

A "hot water bottle read" is too small a term for such a life affirming book. Thank you for writing and sharing such a wonderful story!

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re Garth's chains - I don't know if this sort of detail is interesting to readers... STAR GAZING opens with Marianne talking about not being able to see a ghost, only hear one - jangling chain noises. That idea returns when she talks about Garth "going straight" and missing his jingling Goth chains. Later Garth talks about missing the asthmatic wheeze of his dead father. All this was my way of recording in fiction that one of the most painful and striking things about visiting my widowed mother was not just the empty chair my father had always sat in, but the silence. He was disabled and had an artificial leg that creaked. (I hadn't consciously registered this when he was alive.) My father's presence was always accompanied by a rhythmic metallic creak as he walked about the bungalow and a click as he sat down or stood up.

 

The poignancy of this silence was all but unbearable and, since STAR GAZING is very much a book about bereavement and grief, I decided to record instances of people missing the "sound effects" their loved ones make.

 

I'd feared losing the visual element would diminish the book's appeal but I suspect my decision to have a blind heroine actually enriched the book.

 

As they say, "Less is more". :friends0:

Edited by Linda Gillard
correction

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He was disabled and had an artificial leg that creaked. (I hadn't consciously registered this when he was alive.) My father's presence was always accompanied by a rhythmic metallic creak as he walked about the bungalow and a click as he sat down or stood up.

 

The poignancy of this silence was all but unbearable and, since STAR GAZING is very much a book about bereavement and grief, I decided to record instances of people missing the "sound effects" their loved ones make.

I know exactly what you mean Linda....my mum walked with a couple of crutches for quite a few years and one of them in particular had a certain click and you always knew she was coming through the house....that was one of those 'taking for granted' sounds that we missed when she passed away, but one that makes me turn round when out and about thinking it is her if I hear someone doing the same noise. In a sentimental way though.

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Having loved Star Gazing, I loaned it to a friend; she just rang to say how much she enjoyed it, that she keeps thinking about the story and the characters and especially about Scotland and Skye.

 

I've also just finished reading Emotional Geology and while I loved that one as well, I liked SG better. Something about that Keir really got to me, and I found Louisa and Garth positively endearing. Made me laugh out loud several times, and that sort of humour isn't easy for a novelist to pull off.

 

And thanks again, Linda, for sending them to me. Very much appreciated.

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Thanks very much, Maggie. :)

 

I'm really looking forward to reading your BEACHCOMBING when it comes out next month. It sounds just my cup of tea. Anything coastal immediately grabs my attention. Years ago I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Rivers Siddons' UP ISLAND and more recently Joanne Harris' COASTLINERS and Sue Monk Kidd's THE MERMAID'S CHAIR.

 

I don't doubt it all stems from my childhood Blyton passion - the Famous Fives and of course THE ISLAND OF ADVENTURE. Hmmm... I'm thinking maybe I now no longer live on an island I maybe need to start a shelf of "island books".

 

Suggestions anyone?

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A couple of "island" books for you ...

 

The Island by Victoria Hislop is an interesting book about a Spinalonga which was an island used as a leper colony and a young woman who travels to Crete to find out more about her family and it's association with the island. As a book it's not without faults, but I found the subject fascinating, as I had no idea leprosy was still around in the 20th century, as I'd always assumed it was a medieval disease.

 

The Beach House by Jane Green, is set on Nantucket, and is about a widow of twenty years, who decides to open her house to paying guests when she finds her finances are dwindling. Perfect holiday reading.

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I tend to veer toward the crimey in my reading, so the first two I thought of were 'Plum Island' by Nelson DeMille and 'Losing You' by Nicci French.

 

There are more just nudging at the back of my brain, so I will have a shelf and brain rummage and come back with some more!

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Thanks very much, Maggie. :)

 

I'm really looking forward to reading your BEACHCOMBING when it comes out next month. It sounds just my cup of tea. Anything coastal immediately grabs my attention. Years ago I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Rivers Siddons' UP ISLAND and more recently Joanne Harris' COASTLINERS and Sue Monk Kidd's THE MERMAID'S CHAIR.

 

I don't doubt it all stems from my childhood Blyton passion - the Famous Fives and of course THE ISLAND OF ADVENTURE. Hmmm... I'm thinking maybe I now no longer live on an island I maybe need to start a shelf of "island books".

 

Suggestions anyone?

Hi Linda:

 

I loved UP ISLAND and think it's Siddons's best novel. Her recent ones don't appeal the way her older books do. As for Blyton and the Fives and Adventure series ... I gobbled those up as a kid and when I moved to the States and had my own kids, I was dismayed to find they're not published here. Not even now ... so I buy them via the Book Depository for my grandchildren, another generation of Blyton lovers.

 

The coastline of UP ISLAND (Martha's Vineyard) is similar to the settings I used for BEACHCOMBING. The shoreline of this part of the States (northeast) is gorgeous, and each state has its own flavour: from the long, rocky beaches of Maine to the sand dunes on Cape Cod and the islands. The photos I took for my web site's banner were taken within a mile or two of where I live (Connecticut).

 

Talking of 'long, rocky beaches' always reminds me of a favourite song: "Time in New England." Love that one, even if it is a bit schmaltzy.

Edited by Maggie Dana

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After reading reviews etc. I've decided this book really sounds like me and although what I am going to ask it a bit cheeky, it would be silly not to given I have the luck to mooch around the same thread as the author.

 

Linda, if I sent you some money (i.e. transfer or cheque, that kind of thing) would you be able/willing to send me an autographed copy of this? I like signatures on my books :) it makes them mine, all mine, and all the more treasured.

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After reading reviews etc. I've decided this book really sounds like me and although what I am going to ask it a bit cheeky, it would be silly not to given I have the luck to mooch around the same thread as the author.

 

Linda, if I sent you some money (i.e. transfer or cheque, that kind of thing) would you be able/willing to send me an autographed copy of this? I like signatures on my books :) it makes them mine, all mine, and all the more treasured.

That is so nice. Authors LOVE stuff like this, and I agree about signatures. I've been lucky enough to have quite a few of my favourite authors sign my favourite books. It really does make them even more precious than they already are.

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Really? I would have thought that most authors would be innundated with people asking for autographed copies of their books, so getting them to agree to sign mine would be nigh on impossible.

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Bookjumper, I'd be delighted to sell you a signed copy of STAR GAZING! That's not cheeky at all.

 

I'll PM you about exchanging addresses, etc.

 

Thanks for your interest. :)

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No, Maggie's right, we love signing books! Especially in bookshops. The bookseller can't return signed copies to the warehouse. :)

 

But we do understand the thrill of a signed book. (We're readers too!) I once picked up a HB copy of Mary Stewart's MY BROTHER MICHAEL in a secondhand bookshop and nearly fell over when I saw she'd signed it. I bought it of course. And stroked it.

 

I doubt many of you will be familiar with Mary Stewart (except perhaps the Merlin books?) but she was hugely influential in the 60s as a romantic suspense writer and, with all due humility, I admit my books must owe a lot to hers which I devoured as a teenager. I still re-read them now with much pleasure. She's a great writer. (Whatever happened to romantic suspense as a genre?)

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I am so looking forward to reading 'Star Gazing' :)

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I am so looking forward to reading 'Star Gazing' :smile2:

 

me too, have mine on order from the library

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I am so looking forward to reading 'Star Gazing' :smile2:

 

me too, have mine on order from the library

 

It's a really good book. There is a quality to Linda's writing that has made all three memorable in such different ways.

 

I can't wait to read what you both think of this one, and the bits that stand out for you. :D

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Thanks Michelle. I have just popped over and had a read and left a comment.

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I'm now a proud owner of my very own signed copy of this - thank you Linda ;)! I shall let you know my innermost thoughts on the matter as soon as they become available...

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I started 'Star Gazing' this morning and I am on page 109, I really like Marianne as a character, sometimes I think she is her own worst enemy but I understand why. Linda has done a great job of describing Marianne's blindness, its written so well :D

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I've arranged to get signed copies of this and Emotional Geology, and am paying for them tomorrow, so SQUEE!! Been looking forward to these for ages!

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