Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Printable Version
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Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Susanne - 14 Mar 2012 07:33 AM
Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard is our bookclub choice for March. The discussion is now open.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - B J Burton - 14 Mar 2012 09:39 AM
This seemed to me to be a very unusual book. Very little happens. Instead of current action we are progressively fed background information that explains how the characters come to be in the situation where we find them.
It is beautifully written and flawlessly presented. I found it totally engrossing and satisfying - to the extent that I can't say I really feel the need to discuss it (sorry!)
I wouldn't be surprised if Linda doesn't actually want to discuss it either and feels the same way as Calum does with reference to his poetry - he just puts his work out there and leaves readers to make of it what they will.
I know if I've really enjoyed a book as my immediate reaction is always the same; I sit with a coffee, ponder on what I've just read - and then buy another book by the author. And that's what I've just done.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Linda Gillard - 14 Mar 2012 10:06 AM
Thank you, Barry. What a lovely non-discussion!
You're right that nothing really happens in EG. I'm always surprised when readers complain (nicely) that they were up late, trying to finish the book because it was a page-turner. It was published in 2005 and I still don't really know why people find it a compulsive read. No one has ever explained it to my satisfaction (though people do seem to really care about Calum & Rose - more the latter, I think. Some readers have found Rose irritating.)
Instead of plot, I went for seismic revelations about the past and that has become a recurring theme in my novels. (I've just started writing my 7th.) I don't plan my novels much before writing them (EG wasn't planned at all and I wasn't writing for publication) so I focus on character, mood & "voice" because I don't have an event structure to hang a story on. My plot - such as it is - emerges as I write. I think character = plot.
When I began writing EG (my first novel) I didn't know whether the daughter Rose was writing to in Ch 1 actually existed. I thought perhaps she was imaginary or had died years ago. I didn't yet know how delusional Rose was. I also didn't know for quite some time that the woman Gavin had betrayed Rose with was her daughter. I'd written quite a lot of the book before I realised this was what had driven Rose right over the edge: a double betrayal.
I had no idea when I wrote Calum's litany of mountaineering deaths that "Chris" was his fiancee. Like Rose, I thought he was talking about a male buddy. But something didn't add up. Why was Calum a drunk? Why did he hate himself so much?... Then I realised there was much more to it than just the death of yet another climbing mate. (I thought I'd have to re-write a lot, but I didn't. I just took out the giveaway personal pronouns - that was a bit tricky! - and the rest of it was fine as it stood.)
This has happened to me so often now: I realise there's more to the story than what I see on the surface. Possibly this is why my books are described as "page-turners"? I don't actually know what's going to happen next or how it all turns out. I'm writing to find out, in the same way a reader reads on, trying to find out.
I used to love it in The X Files when Mulder said, "The truth is out there, Scully..." Call me cranky, but I sometimes think the stories are out there. I just tune into them, channel them and get them down on paper.
And, as Calum says, "They mean what you want them to mean."
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Susanne - 14 Mar 2012 10:21 AM
This was my first book by Linda and what a treat to have discovered her! A beautiful, poignant book.
What really intrigued me was Rose's relationship with Megan, her daughter. Megan had the affair with Gavin which resulted in Rose having her nervous breakdown. She then tries it on with Calum. Rose seems to have forgiven her, Megan is only 17, she needed a father figure. It doesn't seem to be a very close relationship which is understandable, Rose resents her being there/trying on her clothes.
There are other things I would love to discuss, but this is something that really stands out for me. To have your daughter betray you so badly and then to be able to treat her with love is a very difficult thing to do.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - kaska - 14 Mar 2012 10:28 AM
I will probably be in the minority here, but I struggled with it. It didn't spark any interest for me & I failed to finish it.
I know it's well loved by many people & I did attempt it several times but to no avail.
In all fairness to Linda though I rarely enjoy romance, love stories, so this probably wasn't going to be an enjoyable book club read for me this month as it's not my usual genre. Because of this my post is most likely irrelevant to the discussion as I've heard nothing but good things about Emotional Geology.
Just didn't want to look like I was ignoring the discussion.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - B J Burton - 14 Mar 2012 10:37 AM
I was obviously totally wrong - you are happy to discuss your book! The writing has such sincerity of feeling that I thought it must have been, at least partly, derived from personal experience and having thoroughly sorted out your thoughts on your experiences I suspected that you might not want to re-visit.
Your writing technique is fascinating. Now I know how you work I can understand that discussing your characters probably helps develop further ideas.
Incidentally, my technique could hardly be more different. I create all of the main points of a book in my head. Before I type a single word I know the opening paragraph, the final one and the main events that will lead along the character and story arcs from beginning to end. It's the differences that makes life interesting.
I'm now getting stuck into A Lifetime Burning where you've used the same structure of starting at the end and in-filling the events that have got us there. It's a clever structure that keeps readers on their toes and involved.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Linda Gillard - 14 Mar 2012 10:42 AM
Susanne, this is an aspect of the book that has come in for some criticism. (Only from women.) Rose has been criticised and in some cases disliked by readers because of the poor relationship they have. It was news to me that all mothers & teenage/adult daughters got on like something out of The Waltons. But I learned that many female readers (and some editors!) think commercial fiction should be aspirational, ie they expect female protagonists to have higher moral standards than the average mortal.
Rose was a very sick woman, single parent of a teenage daughter. It was never going to be easy, for her or Megan. You find out just how hard it was for Megan as the book unfolds. It was my hope that the reader might also find Gavin more sympathetic by the end. Looking after Rose was a terrible undertaking for someone as emotionally immature and self-centred as Gavin.
I think the 2 women achieve a sort of closure by the end. It's uneasy, but I wanted to write something that was true to life. EG is about compassion (I think probably all my novels are about that) and Rose is finally able to see how Megan suffered, how carers of the mentally ill suffer, how overwhelming it is to have that responsibility.
And that's my thesis really: mental illness is a family affair. The difference between coping - even surviving - and not, is the quality of support the mentally ill person gets. I wanted readers to think by the end that Rose stands a good chance of coping in future because Calum will get it right. (If he can stay away from the booze.)
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Linda Gillard - 14 Mar 2012 10:56 AM
(14 Mar 2012 10:37 AM)B J Burton Wrote: The writing has such sincerity of feeling that I thought it must have been, at least partly, derived from personal experience and having thoroughly sorted out your thoughts on your experiences I suspected that you might not want to re-visit.
Thanks for your concern, Barry, but I'm happy to discuss the book and have done for years. I've given talks to groups with a particular interest in mental health issues. EG isn't autobiography, though I am mildly bipolar and have a long and colourful history of depression and mental breakdown. But Rose's story isn't mine. She is much sicker than I've ever been. I wrote the book from a good deal of research and I also used the experience of a desperately ill & suicidal friend who was hospitalised many times.
But actually the more autobiographical character is Calum. I was a teacher who cracked up and I wrote this novel in the aftermath of my breakdown. On my last day in the classroom I was punched by a pupil and I suffered for years (perhaps still do) from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Calum's teaching techniques (particularly the Timed Writing) are drawn from the way I used to teach and his character was my valediction to teaching. I wanted him to embody all that was good about teaching and teachers.
If anyone's interested to read more about how I came to write EG in the wake of a breakdown and a surprise diagnosis of bipolar, see this link where I guest-blogged on the subject.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - Kew - 14 Mar 2012 11:05 AM
I've enjoyed reading through the discussion so far - very interesting.
I loved this book - I was one of those readers who couldn't put it down. It is so well written that I didn't realise it was your first novel! I did read and enjoy House of Silence some time ago but I would like to re-read it now.
I found the story fascinating, like peeling back the layers of an onion, gradually revealing the secrets of the past. I also liked the fact that the characters are flawed - much more life like! Whilst I enjoy soppy romances, you never expect to meet people like that in real life; but the characters in EG were believable. I also found my perceptions of the characters shifting all the time - I thought Gavin was horrible to start with but then my view of him was softened (although I still think it was cruel of him to sleep with Rose's daughter and to enjoy telling her about it!) I was often irritated by Rose but understood her actions as the story revealed her illness and the past. I also had shifting views of Megan and their relationship - all of which is what made this story so fascinating and unputdownable. It's not easy to sum up the characters - but that is what gives the story depth. I loved Calum!
I also enjoyed the way that the story was told from three different perspectives; in Rose's voice, from inside her mind, and from a general perspective.
This book could definately stand re-reading! I just gobbled it up the first time.
RE: Bookclub: The discussion of Emotional Geology (contains spoilers) - B J Burton - 14 Mar 2012 11:15 AM
O.K. I was wrong - I clearly do need to discuss this book.
That's interesting, Linda. I'd never heard of Timed Writing, but the idea really appeals.
Like Kaska I don't enjoy conventional love stories, but I don't think that this falls into that category. I found it an absorbing account of how a group of people, all of them with typical human flaws, endured the pressures that must arise when one of them is afflicted with the mental frailty that often seems to accompany a creative, artistic temperament.
Megan had to cope single-handedly with a troubled mother from an early age. When Gavin appeared, and was willing to share the burden, Megan must have been greatly relieved. She only had the 'fling' with Gavin when she feared that he was about to leave them and she thought that it might persuade him to stay.
The move back-fired disastrously.
It is only late on in the book that the reader discovers the full details of what has happened in the past to all of the characters and finally understands the situation that each of them occupies.