I’m going to share a secret. OK, maybe it’s not such a secret – but I do actually have a few favourite authors. It is a list that’s getting longer and longer these days, but one author has held her place since I read the wonderful Star Gazing back in 2008. Linda Gillard is one of very few whose books I unfailingly buy on the day of their release, knowing before I read that I’m in for a total treat. So when The Trysting Tree appeared on Amazon, without any fanfare, just a quiet mention on Facebook on 17th May, my finger was on the “buy” button almost before the author had taken hers off “publish”.
A century of secrets…
Four women live in the shadow of the Trysting Tree.
All have something to hide.
A man without a memory walks away from the Somme battlefield, while a young woman grieves beneath the tree that will guard her secret for a hundred years.
Ann de Freitas doesn’t remember what she witnessed when she was five. The truth lies buried in the beech wood, forgotten for forty years. Can love unlock Ann’s heart and mind?
Connor Grenville is restoring the walled garden where his grandmother, Ivy used to play. Before her death, she tried to destroy the family archive. Who was Ivy trying to protect? And why?
When a storm fells the Trysting Tree, revealing a century-old love hidden in its hollow heart, Ann and Connor begin to sift through the past in search of answers. What they discover changes everything.
“The story doesn’t start here. I need to go back. Back to a time when the beech tree still stood, when I didn’t know the truth about my family and Connor didn’t know the truth about his. Right back to a time when the twentieth century was young and the beech still kept its secrets…”
Now I don’t know about you, but that description made me say “I love it” before I’d even read the first page. This book had so many elements I love to find in any book I read. First of all, there’s the dual time element – a modern story of a family with a mystery in its past, a story spanning the First World War, linked by setting and a shared history. I particularly loved the way the earlier story was told – real time, readings from diaries, letters, sometimes even by the trees themselves. Both stories are complex and engaging, exploring love and loss and set against a vividly drawn backdrop, deep in natural detail and rich in atmosphere.
In the modern story, there’s a wonderfully drawn mother-daughter relationship – the character of mother Phoebe is particularly well developed, her loss of movement and inability to paint very poignantly described, her difficult personality and absence of mothering instinct perfectly drawn. I loved Hester in the earlier story too – struggling with the pressure of expectation and convention, with a strong clear voice. The love story of old and the one of the present day are intensely moving and totally absorbing – and the complex plot, full of secrets, within which the love stories sit twists and turns with ease, deftly handled by a writer fully in control of her craft.
If you’ve read Linda Gillard’s work before, you’ll be enchanted by this one. If you haven’t – well, this really wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She is the author of seven novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, which became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category.
Linda has previously been my guest on Being Anne: you can read our feature on her novels with a Scottish setting or connection here. She has an excellent website where you can find out more about the author and her writing, and a Facebook author page.