It’s a real delight today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald – a second edition, which has reworked the early chapters of the first edition, making for a pacy and shorter version more in line with the audiobook that received such excellent reviews on its recent blog tour. I had the immense pleasure of discovering Linda’s writing last year, when I read and reviewed the excellent The Man in the Needlecord Jacket (read the review again here) – and immediately decided it was one of my books of the year. I’ve been wanting to try another of her books for some time, and this new edition of Meeting Lydia provided the perfect opportunity – and every bit as much reading enjoyment.
Meeting Lydia explores the very relevant topics of childhood bullying, midlife crises, the pros and cons of internet relationships, and how the psychological effects of these affect the main character and those around her. Readers will be gripped by the turbulent life of Marianne who navigates the onset of menopause, an empty nest, a suspected errant husband and a demanding new obsession that pulls her in deeper as the story unfolds. Those interested in the psychology of relationships will enjoy this novel, as well as those who delight in an enthralling story with relatable characters and the powerful question of what happens when the past catches up with the present.
Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in their kitchen. Old childhood insecurities resurface, stemming from a time back at school when she was bullied. Jealousy rears its head and her happy marriage begins to crumble. Desperate for a solution – and introduced by her daughter to social networking – she tries to track down her first schoolgirl crush, the enigmatic Edward Harvey. But Marianne is unprepared for the power of email relationships…
In my review of The Man in the Needlecord Jacket I said that for a book to really impress me it needs to engage my emotions, win my heart, and move me – and it’s even better when it engages my brain a little too. This book did all that, and more – with its focus on Marianne, approaching her fifties, feeling the changes to her mind and body and their impact on her marriage.
One of the author’s exceptional strengths is in allowing you to inhabit the mind and thoughts of her characters – and Marianne’s mind isn’t always an entirely comfortable place to be, however recognisable from your personal experience. As well as the insecurities at her stage of life, Marianne carries a lot of baggage from her dreadful experience of bullying, as one of a small number of girls at a boys’ preparatory school – a legacy she’s never shared with husband Johnny, nor come to terms with. The novel is set in 2002, in the early days of electronic relationships – the relevance of “Lydia” (very cleverly) becomes clear as Marianne re-establishes contact with Edward, a fellow student she admired from afar, through Friends Reunited.
I very much liked the book’s structure – her initial search for contact, the email exchanges agonised over for tone and content, together with the deeper, more reflective drafts never sent but revealing far more about Marianne’s thoughts and feelings. I also loved the portrait of her marriage – the realistic exchanges and reactions, the words that couldn’t be unsaid, the jealousy souring each attempt at reconciliation. It would be wrong of me to tell too much of the story, but there were moments in this book when I was angry with her, wanted to hug her, and one significant point when I wished I was standing behind her to cheer her on.
The writing, as ever, is superb – a lot of introspection and self analysis, but very well handled, and an emotional touch that’s quite perfectly judged. There’s darkness and light, humour and tears, characters you grow to love, and a strong narrative drive that carries you through with a yearning to discover how things play out. I really enjoyed this book – and I’m particularly delighted that I still have two more books to look forward to reading, to explore the characters further.
Linda joined me in November of last year, with an article on texting for trouble – a brief and fascinating history of electronic relationships. You can read it again here.
About the author
Linda MacDonald is the author of four novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. 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.