Linda Gillard has been one of my very favourite authors since I read the wonderful Star Gazing back in 2008: having gone back to read her two earlier books, I’ve since bought every single book on the day of their release, and her writing is always quite wonderful. The Trysting Tree appeared on Amazon, with just a quiet mention on Facebook, in May 2016, and I really thought it was one of her best books yet. So I’m delighted to share the news that it has now been republished by Lake Union Press as The Memory Tree: the kindle version is already available, the paperback and the audio download are available from tomorrow (22nd August).
Can the power of love overcome life’s darkest memories and deepest losses?
When her favourite beech tree is felled in a storm, Ann feels as if someone has died. But when long-hidden seed packets are found inside the trunk, Ann realises there are more memories than her own lurking within the ancient tree . . .
A century earlier, head gardener William Hatherwick and Hester Mordaunt, mistress of Beechgrave, share a love for the mighty estate – and an undeclared love for each other. But when war breaks out, William is sent to the battlefields of France, and as the conflict rages on, Hester grieves beneath the tree. Can she and William ever find happiness once he’s witnessed the horror of the trenches?
In the present day, historian Connor Grenville wants to understand why his late grandmother tried to destroy Hester’s archive before she died. Who was she trying to protect – and why? His findings bring long-suppressed memories back to Ann’s mind . . .
Beneath the shadow of the tree, love is won and lost, and secrets are hidden and revealed. Will the truth heal the wounds that lie buried in the past?
It’s a real pleasure to be able to re-share my review…
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.
About the author
Linda Gillard is the author of eight novels and she lives in North Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Linda graduated from Bristol University, then trained as an actress at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Whilst under-employed at the National Theatre, she developed a sideline as a freelance journalist. She ran two careers concurrently for a while, then gave up acting to raise a family and write from home. At the age of 40 she re-trained as a teacher and taught for some years, then moved to the Isle of Skye where she lived for six years, writing full-time.
Linda’s first novel, Emotional Geology, was short-listed for the 2006 Waverton Good Read Award. Star Gazing was short-listed for “Romantic Novel of the Year 2009” and “The Robin Jenkins Literary Award”, the UK’s first environmental book award.
Linda’s fourth novel, House of Silence, quickly became a Kindle bestseller. It was selected by Amazon UK for 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.