My first thought when I finished reading Emotional Geology was masterpiece. Beautifully written and deeply moving, it’s the story of a woman with bipolar disorder who is trying to start afresh after a traumatic relationship break-up and the resultant mental breakdown.
Rose, a textile artist buys a cottage on Uist, a remote Scottish island, and meets Callum, a poet, teacher and the younger brother of her neighbour Shona. Rose wonders why this handsome, charming forty year old is alone. Though there are hints before hand, the truth only comes out in the final chapters where he reveals his scars both physical and mental in some very powerful writing.
The reason for Rose’s breakdown is revealed in scenes of past events. As the story progresses, we discover the full extent of her betrayal by her ex-partner Gavin, and follow her inner journey as she endeavours to cast off his ghost and open herself to the possibility of new love.
This is a multilayered work with a brilliant use of poetry and descriptive imagery using the language of textiles eg colour, texture, weight and movement qualities, as described through the eyes of a textile artist. The descriptions of Rose’s all black textile response to Callum’s poem, Basalt, is exceptional. I saw the piece as if it hung on the wall before me. The description of the gold and white piece was similarly evocative and it’s brightness a fitting and highly symbolic balance to the black hanging on the opposite wall.
As with all of Linda’s work, the characterisation was exemplarary, especially the sensitive and realistic description of Rose in a manic phase. I loved the parallel drawn between the manic and creative state, something reinforced by Rose’s creation of a work of art as a way of coping with a major trauma.
Gillard uses different points of view, first and third, well to give different degrees of intimacy to different scenes. I loved the rhythm created by the different lengths of scenes separated by gaps of time, especially during the party where the various snippets give the vague disjointed experience of someone who had drunk just a little too much.
This is, without a doubt, a 5 star work and one that all lovers of contemporary fiction and romance should read. Also if you like symbolism in stories and lots of layers of meaning to unravel, then you’ll love this.