A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard

The cover for A Lifetime Burning is a woman’s face in different colours, very eye-catching and chaotic, which is in a sense how the family in this book is. And the recommended quote on the front cover said:
“Disturbing themes, sensitively explored”
I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. As it happens, although the themes were not something I would have picked usually, this was an incredibly good book.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Greedy for experience but determined to be good, Flora Dunbar spends a lifetime seeking love, trying to build a future out of the wreckage of her past – an eccentric childhood spent in the shadow of her musical twin, Rory; early marriage to Hugh, a clergyman twice her age; motherhood, which brings her Theo, the son she cannot love; middle-age, when she finds brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.
“If you asked my sister-in-law why she hated me, she’d say it was because I seduced her precious firstborn then tossed him onto the sizeable scrap-heap marked Flora’s ex-lovers. But she’d be lying. That isn’t why Grace hated me. Ask my brother Rory…”

This was a complete page-turner. Gillard talks about love, religion, family, incest, homelessness and gardens. All these themes were sensitively explored, and extremely well written about.

As I was reading I wasn’t sure what I was going to write in the review. This book captured me. It spoke of forbidden and immoral love, yet it made my heart grieve a little. In these circumstances, the love that was felt was definitely wrong, but heart-breaking to read about the passion, pain and sorrow. It was written so well that I did catch a bit of the pain felt.

Maybe it was a little unrealistic with all the love-triangles in one family, but then maybe if it a close unit, why would this not happen?

My favourite characters changed as the story progressed. This would be because Gillard writes in a style where you jumped from different times and events. This didn’t bother me at all. In my opinion this allowed the characters and story to progress and grow, and was a very good tool for explaining later events and the characters themselves. I guess my favourite character was Hugh in the end. This was because even with everything going on he was hard to fault. He took the moral high ground and looked after everyone and everything. He was a true gentleman.

I recommend this book. It only took a few days to read. Gillard’s writing style flows and is very engaging. This is a must-read.

9/10

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