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Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

Star Gazing (2008)

by Linda Gillard

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This is an amazing book. It's a love story but with added interest in that it is set in Scotland, partly on the Isle of Skye. The major character is Marianne who has been blind since birth. She is 45, widowed, and childless since she had a miscarriage shortly after her husband's tragic death.

Then she meets a mysterious man named Keir from Skye and he begins to describe things to her that no one had ever been able to make her "see." He takes her to Skye promising to show her the stars, and using language and music, he does just that.

I absolutely love this book. Scotland is so beautiful but I haven't been to Skye; now I know what it looks like. The four characters in the book are alive to me after reading the book. It's a wonderful story, beautifully written. I highly recommend it. ( )
  bjmitch | Jul 7, 2010 |
The day before I started Star Gazing I spent some time surfing sites with pictures of the place where I spent wonderful holidays as a child, the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Part of the pleasure of those holidays was the very long drive from the Central Highlands – up the Great North Road over the Drumochter Pass to Dalwhinnie, then turning westwards towards Spean Bridge and Fort William, before catching the Corran ferry. Once we had crossed Loch Linnhe it was still a long journey – a couple of hours to drive a little over 50 miles along a single track road, but at every bend the views were indescribably beautiful, especially the unforgettable first sight of the islands in the distance. Circumstance has dictated that I have only been back once as an adult, but I dream of seeing it again one day.

The route I describe is a little further south than the one undertaken by Marianne and Keir in Star Gazing, when he takes her to Skye to show her his home, but my own experience lent piquancy to their journey – such beauty, which Marianne can only see in Keir’s description, because she is blind. Much of his attraction for her is in the way in which he creates pictures out of the other senses, the tangible ones of sound and smell and touch, but important also is his awareness of intangible senses, like the location of the body in space. Much of the story is told in Marianne’s voice, and we become aware of her reliance on these other senses to maintain her independence, while her refusal to use a stick is a means of holding to a psychological independence, since she is doubly vulnerable, first by nature of her blindness and second by the early death of her husband.

One of the things that I liked about Marianne is that she isn’t entirely likeable – she’s prickly and sharp-tongued, “crabbit” as Keir says, and her relationship with her older sister Louisa is at times scratchy. Louisa’s is the other main voice telling the story, and her protectiveness and occasional impatience are entirely convincing. Their days are spent in the douce surroundings of Edinburgh, with visits to concerts and to the “Botanics”, so that the events which unfold during Marianne’s visit to Skye are a shock to them both, causing each to retreat defensively into her shell while she considers the future. The sense of the two women treading carefully round each other is well caught. The portrayal of these three characters, Marianne, Louisa and Keir, is delicate and sensitive – Gillard’s instincts about the ways in which people work are finely-tuned - which makes the contrast with Louisa’s assistant, Garth the Goth, all the more joyous – despite his Goth make-up he is down-to-earth and just plain fun.

I really don’t want to say too much more about the plot – this is one of those books which will absorb you completely (I read it in a day), and will stay with you long afterwards. The lingering image I have from it is the one I mentioned earlier – the body’s location in space, an image heightened by the involvement of other senses than sight and which recurs throughout the novel. Keir’s dream of his friend Mac falling from a rig platform is one such image, the isolated cottage on Skye another. It’s a book, too, with a strong spirit of place, with Edinburgh, Skye and briefly, Aberdeen, clearer for the the counted paces, the reliance on sound and touch. ( )
1 vote GeraniumCat | Jun 8, 2010 |
Linda Gillard is one of my favourite authors and this book has been waiting on my shelf because I knew it would be a treat and I wanted to find the right time to read it. And it was a treat. Romantic fiction is not my usual reading fare and Keir was just a bit too good to be true, but the descriptions of Skye and Edinburgh, and the way in which Keir describes everything from landscapes to buildings in ways that make you think about them again and realise that he is quite right when he says we seeing people don't really see things, more than made up for the idealised hero. Like her other books this is multi-layered and the sort of book that you can read again and again and each time gain a little more insight.

The only reason I've not given it the full five stars is because I was a little disappointed by the ending. It felt rushed to me and slightly at odds with the rest of the book, it is difficult to explain without giving away the plot so I won't go into details. That was a small thing though and overall I loved it. ( )
  starryjen | Feb 6, 2010 |
I loved this book right from the start. The characters are so well drawn and the story so moving. Marianne is very independent, and a little prickly. She doesn't like to use her cane when she's out because she doesn't want it to be obvious she's blind. Some of the things she said made me smile, but you could also really feel her pain, both at the loss of her husband, and the other losses that she suffers.

Linda Gillard's writing seems to have so much feeling to it and I really cared what happened to Marianne and Keir. There's also Louisa and her relationship with the much younger Garth the Goth.

Because the main character is blind, there's a lot of description of Edinburgh and Skye, two wonderful settings. And the things Keir does to be able to describe surroundings to Marianne are very touching.

A lovely book, and one which I highly recommend. ( )
  nicx27 | Sep 9, 2009 |
My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. (Understatement). I was enchanted throughout the entire story. The characters are brave and headstrong and yet each vulnerable. I won't go so far as to say flawed as they are just so very human. The writing is lyrical and descriptive. It is also comsuming and addicting. So many times I paused while reading to imagine a setting, a situation or a sensation. This book is a treat for all the senses and a full on romantic meal for your heart and a treat to your literary taste buds. There are dramatic scenes that caused me to gasp and read faster as well as bed time "star stories" that caused me to read slowly, savor and enjoy.

At first glance one might think it is the story of the big wonderful hunk man rescuing the poor little blind girl and one might think it is some sort of damsel in distress story. That is not the case in this story. It is so much more. You will not find a weak, helpless woman waiting to be rescued. And yet at times you want her to just "be rescued." The books is passionately, sensual and a real treat.

I wish to thank Linda Gillard for sending me the autographed copy. It is one of the best treats in books I have had this year. I suspect I will have the glow of this book upon me for a while. ( )
  coolpinkone | Jul 27, 2009 |
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As a man is so he sees - William Blake
For my father Charles Frederick Gillard (1925 - 2005)
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This is not a ghost story.
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Can Marianne trust her feelings for a reclusive stranger who wants to take her, a blind woman, to his island home on Skye, to "show" her the stars?

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