Sunday, 24 July 2016

Summer Reading: The Trysting Tree by Linda Gillard

I've been saving some good reads for the summer - books to lose yourself in - books for a good wallow, and The Trysting Tree is one of them. I've long been a fan of Linda Gillard's fiction - they're beautifully constructed, intelligent, well-written novels with unusual plots and stunning locations.  If I had to categorise them, I suppose I'd have to put them into the romantic literary fiction genre. But, although there is always a love story (in this case more than one) in the novel, there is often a great deal of psychological angst too.  She has written about post-traumatic-stress disorder, grief, depression, incest and the difficulties of dysfunctional families.  Some of her novels stray towards the Gothic - dilapidated Scottish castles with ghosts, or crumbling mansions. I've enjoyed them all.

We've just passed the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and The Trysting Tree has, at the centre of the book, a tragedy born from World War I. Part of the plot involves the unraveling of letters and family history to solve a mystery.  But the heroine, Ann de Freitas, also has a mystery at the heart of her own life, concerning her absent father - why did he leave so abruptly? Where is he now? And why will her mother not talk about it?

I knew from Linda's  Facebook page that she was working on this book, but what I didn't know was that Linda had chosen a portrait by a very good friend of mine, Norwegian painter Dora Bendixon, for her 'prompt' for the character of one of the protagonists - Ann's mother, the difficult, egotistical, complicated artist Phoebe Flint.

When Linda loaded the image onto Facebook it was the most astonishing coincidence, as I'd just been standing beside that painting in Dora's living room in Italy (artists do get about a bit!).  The portrait is, by another strange coincidence, that of a famous Brazilian-born sculptor called Eugenia Wolfowicz, who was every bit as eccentric as Phoebe Flint.

The Trysting Tree is a very good novel to read beside the pool on a warm summer afternoon - or in any other location for that matter.  I read it on the sofa on a grey, rainy day in what passes for summer in the Lake District.  All Linda's novels come highly recommended, though I have to confess that House of Silence is still my all-time favourite!


The Trysting Tree in only available as an e-book at the moment - paperback out in September.

Linda Gillard's website


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