I had the great pleasure of welcoming author Linda MacDonald as a guest on Being Anne in March (you can read her article again here), and I was really keen to try her writing. The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is published by Matador: the kindle version released on 24th March, with the paperback following on 28th May. Here’s the rather enticing description:
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.
When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.
Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.
This book was such a breath of fresh air, something a little different, and such an enjoyable read. Silly of me really, but I was expecting something rather more earnest and less accessible – and, I must be honest, the book’s title did reinforce my totally wrong impression. I didn’t even know I loved reading about “the psychology of relationships” – but I most certainly do!
Because what the author does so very well is to lay before us real people – people we recognise, who behave as real people do. And real people sometimes behave badly, make you shake your head in disbelief, sometimes drive you to the moral high ground when you disapprove of their actions, and sometimes make you feel very uncomfortable when you see them making mistakes you might well have made yourself. They experience self doubt, disappointment and heartbreak – and moments of sheer joy. This book captures it all, wrapped around a fascinating story – no massive fireworks, just life and relationships presenting opportunities and challenges that the characters negotiate and deal with in their own ways.
The characterisation in this book is quite exceptional – my heart bled for Sarah as she desperately poured love into her relationship with little return, and Felicity became my very best friend as she wrestled with the life-changing consequences of her earlier actions, the complexities of moving on, and coming to terms with the changes that have damaged her foundations.
I was married for thirty-odd years, but now I am an outcast of the family group, wandering the periphery like the meerkat who misbehaves, snatching moments of solace with those whom I love, and then scuttling off into the night to hide in my flat, often alone and mostly sad.
As for Coll… some of his actions made me gasp, and I loved the book’s construction in that the reader always knows rather more about what’s going on than the people directly involved. I always enjoy reading about rather older characters who have more depth and have lived a little – although this book is 100% a stand alone read, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t discover them sooner through the author’s earlier books.
And I really must mention the strength of the writing – smoothly readable, easy to lose yourself in the story, humour and outrage sitting comfortably side by side. One of the joys of reading on the kindle is the ability to highlight passages you’d like to revisit later, for those moments when you’re struck by some thought or expression – I’ve rarely used the function as much, because there were so many times that small observations or comments so perfectly summed up what life can really be like.
I have often thought that life seems to deal out good times and bad times in batches rather than a mix of the two. I hear people say, ‘And as if that wasn’t enough…’ or, ‘Just when you think things can’t get any worse…’ The trajectory of life is rarely a ripple; more often a mountain range of peaks and troughs.
I often say that for a book to really impress me it needs to engage my emotions, win my heart, and move me – but I’m always rather pleased when it engages my brain a little too. This delightful book delivered on every level – Linda MacDonald is an author I’ll most definitely be seeking out again.
My thanks to netgalley and Matador for providing my e-copy for review.
About the author
Linda MacDonald is the author of three previous novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind and The Alone Alternative. Her fourth novel, The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, continues the series, but also stands alone. All Linda’s books are contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.
After studying psychology at Goldsmiths’, Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. The first two novels took ten years in writing and publishing, using snatched moments in the evenings, weekends and holidays. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.
Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham in Kent.