A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard

I know Michelle has already reviewed this book, but I thought I would add my review too.

As Linda was the featured author for June at the Book Club Forum I decided to give this book a try. I had no idea what to expect. The cover for A Lifetime Burning is a woman’s face in different colours, very eye-catching and chaotic, which is in a sense how the family in this book is. And the recommended quote on the front cover said:
“Disturbing themes, sensitively explored”
I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. As it happens, although the themes were not something I would have picked usually, this was an incredibly good book.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Greedy for experience but determined to be good, Flora Dunbar spends a lifetime seeking love, trying to build a future out of the wreckage of her past – an eccentric childhood spent in the shadow of her musical twin, Rory; early marriage to Hugh, a clergyman twice her age; motherhood, which brings her Theo, the son she cannot love; middle-age, when she finds brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.
“If you asked my sister-in-law why she hated me, she’d say it was because I seduced her precious firstborn then tossed him onto the sizeable scrap-heap marked Flora’s ex-lovers. But she’d be lying. That isn’t why Grace hated me. Ask my brother Rory…”

This was a complete page-turner. Gillard talks about love, religion, family, incest, homelessness and gardens. All these themes were sensitively explored, and extremely well written about.

As I was reading I wasn’t sure what I was going to write in the review. This book captured me. It spoke of forbidden and immoral love, yet it made my heart grieve a little. In these circumstances, the love that was felt was definitely wrong, but heart-breaking to read about the passion, pain and sorrow. It was written so well that I did catch a bit of the pain felt.

Maybe it was a little unrealistic with all the love-triangles in one family, but then maybe if it a close unit, why would this not happen?

My favourite characters changed as the story progressed. This would be because Gillard writes in a style where you jumped from different times and events. This didn’t bother me at all. In my opinion this allowed the characters and story to progress and grow, and was a very good tool for explaining later events and the characters themselves. I guess my favourite character was Hugh in the end. This was because even with everything going on he was hard to fault. He took the moral high ground and looked after everyone and everything. He was a true gentleman.

I recommend this book. It only took a few days to read. Gillard’s writing style flows and is very engaging. This is a must-read.

9/10

Categories: Reviews | 1 Comment

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One thought on “A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard

  1. Thanks marshkb for your fab review! 🙂

    The cycle of transgressive love was a deliberate ploy and not every reader has throught it worked. We know abuse runs in families, so apparently does alcoholism and domestic violence, so I wondered if there were other possibilities. It’s not something I could research because who would talk about it frankly?

    I have a very soft spot for poor old Hugh! Glad you liked him. It’s notoriously difficult to portray goodness in an appealing way. (Think of how modern readers tend to loathe Fanny Price in MANSFIELD PARK, but her sin is only being a good person.) Hugh is essentially a good man who makes some terrible mistakes. One of the things I wanted to explore in the book was how much harm you can do by trying to do “the right thing”.

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