I thoroughly enjoyed Linda Gillard’s first novel Emotional Geology , a book I have recommended to various friends who have all loved it. So I was delighted when she asked if I’d be interested in reading her latest release The Memory Tree. The book was previously published as The Trysting Tree, a title I rather like. The trees in the book link the stories within, having stood in the grounds of the grand house Beechgrave witnessing the courting (or trysting) couples who have sought to conceal their meetings over the years. Indeed, it is the trees who sometimes reveal some of the secrets in the story to the reader.
The Memory Tree really appealed to me as it is set across two different time scales, which I always enjoy, one of which being the First World War, a time period I like to read about. There are long buried secrets from the past coming to the fore, having repercussions in the present day and there are stories of forbidden love.
In the present day part of the story, Ann’s mother Phoebe is a renowned artist but treatment for cancer has left her in pain and less able to work. The relationship between the two has always been fraught, not least because Ann’s father left when she was young and she has never really been close to her mother. This complex mother and daughter relationship is so well depicted as is their gradual coming to understand each other better. Phoebe’s agent is concerned for her health and suggests that Ann goes to stay with her at her large home, Beechgrave, for a while. While she is there, a storm brings down a favourite, old beech tree and some items hidden within it come to light. Historian and would-be landscape gardener Connor has a past connection to the house and is eager to bring the garden back to its former glory. Like the two women, he is also intrigued by the things they find and together they work to solve the mystery.
In the story set just before, during and after the First World War we meet former occupants of the house including Hester Mordaunt. It was so sad to read about the family’s experiences during the war. Like so many families, the Mordaunts lost loved ones to the war and to the Spanish Flu epidemic which followed it. My heart went out to Hester and I admired her courage and determination to carry on. Linda Gillard wrote so movingly of Hester’s feelings. I loved the way that much of this part of the story was told through Hester’s diaries, as well as from the points of view of some of the other characters.
Linda Gillard moves her story so well between the past and the present, weaving mystery effortlessly between the two time lines. The ending was so very satisfying as all the strands were pulled together, though not without some shocks! The Memory Tree is beautifully written and although sad in parts, it is also gloriously romantic. I absolutely loved this book and will be recommending Linda Gillard’s wonderful writing to my friends once again.
From the back of the book
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 . . .
About the author
Linda Gillard lives in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She’s the author of eight novels, including Star Gazing, shortlisted in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award. Star Gazing was also voted Favourite Romantic Novel 1960–2010 by Woman’s Weekly readers.
Linda’s fourth novel, House of Silence, became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon as one of its Top Ten ‘Best of 2011’ in the Indie Author category.
Find out more about Linda at http://www.lindagillard.co.uk.