Review of “Untying the Knot” by Linda Gillard

If you have read other novels by Linda Gillard you know that she is an advocate for the understanding of the kinds of mental illnesses that are not severe enough to prevent a person from living in society, but perhaps for that very reason, add additional stress onto anyone thus afflicted. In this book, which is also and I would say primarily about enduring love, the author tackles the important issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and she does a wonderful job.

The main protagonists in this book, Fay and Magnus, have been divorced for five years. Previously, Fay played the role of a faithful army wife, while Magnus was periodically deployed as part of an “Explosive Ordnance Disposal” or EOD team. But Magnus came back from the Falklands War with PTSD, and thereafter suffered from frequent nightmares and even violent episodes during which he thought he was back in the war zone.

Although Fay loved Magnus, she left him when his illness began to make her crazy as well. She started a new life on her own, finding success with the therapeutic craft of textile art. Magnus engaged in his own therapeutic work, restoring the crumbling Tullibardine Tower out in the countryside of Perthshire.

After the divorce, Fay and Magnus only interacted intermittently, and eventually a young woman, Nina, moved in with Magnus in the Tower. But when Emily, the grown daughter of Magnus and Fay, announces her engagement to a young man about whom Fay has some questions, Fay feels she has to tell Magnus, and all the relationships come to a crisis point.

Countryside in Perthshire

Countryside in Perthshire

Discussion: The characters in this book aren’t too different from those in most of the author’s other books, in that the female main protagonist is a bit crabby, and the male is tall, dark, handsome, and quite Scottish. Furthermore, both the male and female protagonists, as in the other books, struggle with issues of creativity and sanity.

This is not to say the writing is formulaic, however. There are many differences in each of the books, the largest of which is the disability affecting one of the main characters, a disability which in turn drives the plot. In this book, that disability is PTSD. I especially appreciated how the author shows what the disease would look like after 25 or 30 years, rather than only portraying the situation immediately after a soldier returns. And though it’s central, it’s also not central, in that it’s just something that affects the relationship of the main characters, rather than An Issue about which the author wants to browbeat us.

The characters are all endearing, flaws and all, and moreover, one can’t help falling for Magnus, with his appealing mix of reputed good looks, sexual prowess, vulnerability and heroism.

Rating: I won’t presume to rate a book by an author with whom I have a relationship. But I will tell you that this author is funny, smart, sensitive, and has a great feel for romance, and it all comes out in her work.

Highly recommended!

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, by 2013

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17 Responses to Review of “Untying the Knot” by Linda Gillard

  1. Uh, YEAH, speaking of dumb phones, you really need to get yourself a smart one so I can text you! (I don’t know, maybe you don’t want that but oh, to have you around for my impromptu, on-the-fly commentary…). Anyway, you make this book appealing. I find it to be a perk if I can learn about something while I am being entertained, in this case PTSD. So many people suffer from it, and is a good thing to raise awareness.

  2. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    I’m seriously interested in reading this one! PTSD is something very real and many of our troops are suffering silently with it. I am heading over to Amazon right now!

  3. Barbara says:

    I’m a friend of Linda’s too, but I really loved this book. As you say, she always has a character with a mental issue but, timely though it is, she doesn’t beat us over the head about it. You gain much more understanding of these issues because of her novels in which the issue is simply there, affecting everyone but not the point of the novel. I’m glad you’re recommending it highly too.

  4. Andrea says:

    I am so glad to find out about this book because I have an uncle with PTSD and can’t wait to read this. It sounds like the romantic element will be very rewarding as well! :–)

  5. zibilee says:

    I have read a lot of books about mental-illnesses, but never about PTSD, so this one intrigues me. I know that there are a lot of people who suffer from this disorder, and I think it’s very interesting that the book revolves around a character who is dealing with it. This was a great review, and has inspired me to go off and download this to my Kindle right away. Very insightful review today, Jill. I enjoyed it!

  6. BermudaOnion says:

    I know how much you love Gillard’s work. I have one of her books and really do need to make the time to read it.

  7. lindagillard says:

    Thanks, Jill, for a great review. I was pleased you accorded the PTSD theme some importance because it’s a subject close to my heart. I had no idea when I started researching the topic what a killer disease this is – literally. More veterans of the Falklands war have killed themselves than actually died in combat. Some men who are behind bars for murder are military veterans suffering from PTSD.

    I think the comments here represent how many people feel about PTSD: it’s something we feel we should know more about because it’s an important issue. It was my intention that UNTYING THE KNOT should deliver (in an entertaining way) an overview of the illness and particularly its impact on relationships.

  8. litandlife says:

    Sounds like an excellent book club choice. Wish we could all do ebooks; I’d definitely recommend this one for my club. Do you think any of her others would make a great choice?

    • Her books all have plenty in them for discussion, but I believe only one, Star Gazing, which is my favorite, is available in print. In that book, the heroine is blind, and in spite of, or because of, that fact, it is one of the most romantic stories you will find!

  9. Litandlife – if you should decide to read STAR GAZING in your group I’ve written a reading guide which includes some background to the writing of the novel. (You might find the editorial tussles about covers and characters interesting!) My first 2 novels are now out of print but there are copies of EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY available on Amazon Marketplace. The mental health “issue” in that one is bipolar.

  10. How interesting that she writes about PTSD so far after the cause. I haven’t seen much fiction that focuses on it in that way.

    • Neither have I, Alyce. I knew there were quite a few novels dealing with the onset of PTSD but I thought it would be interesting to examine the problem from a wife’s angle. Then I thought it would be even more interesting to look at it from an ex-wife’s angle since most marriages affected by PTSD eventually end in divorce.

      I’m not sure if people realise that there’s very little in the way of treatment for PTSD. Not only is PTSD for life, it can actually get worse over the years. Flashbacks long after the event can be worse than the event itself. I’m sure this must be one of the factors that drives people to suicide.

      Having said that, there are some effective treatments. But sufferers are reluctant to ask for help because they believe they ought to be able to cope. Many people can experience the same traumatic event but most will not suffer from longterm PTSD. For this reason the illness is perceived as “weakness”. Veterans particularly find it hard to acknowledge they’re seriously ill. Instead they manage their condition with drink and drugs, so they end up with a complex range of health & social problems.

      In the UK it’s estimated that up to 25% of the homeless on the streets are ex-military, many of whom are suffering from PTSD.

  11. I have never read this author but because I’m always interested in books that deal with mental illness in some way, this book has caught my interest. I will save the title for when I get an e-reader.

  12. Jenners says:

    Yes … you do have a relationship with this author. You are her … or I thought you were in the beginning of our blogging relationship. HAHA!

  13. bookingmama says:

    The book does sound interesting and I respect your opinion that the author tackles the issues in a good way.

  14. stacybuckeye says:

    I still have a dumb phone too and don’t text. The young moms I see think it’s cause I’m old, LOL. I tell them it’s because I’m lazy and I don’t need to be reachable 24/7. One of them told me phones (I’m guessing all but the smarty ones) belong in a museum.
    One day I’ll break down…

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