Star Gazing, Paperback
5 out of 5 (7 ratings)

Description

Blind since birth, widowed in her twenties, now lonely in her forties, Marianne Fraser lives in Edinburgh in elegant, angry anonymity with her sister, Louisa, a successful novelist.

Marianne's passionate nature finds solace and expression in music, a love she finds she shares with Keir, a man she encounters on her doorstep one winter's night.

Whilst Marianne has had her share of men attracted to her because they want to rescue her, Keir makes no concession to her condition.

He is abrupt to the point of rudeness, and yet oddly kind.

But can Marianne trust her feelings for this reclusive stranger who wants to take a blind woman to his island home on Skye, to 'show' her the stars?

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Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.

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Review by
4

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.

Review by
5

This is the second Linda Gillard novel I have read, and I think I preferred this one, Star Gazing to A Lifetime Burning. However, I highly recommend both books.Here is Amazon's synopsis:Blind since birth, widowed in her twenties, now lonely in her forties, Marianne Fraser lives in Edinburgh in elegant, angry anonymity with her sister, Louisa, a successful novelist. Marianne's passionate nature finds solace and expression in music, a love she finds she shares with Keir, a man she encounters on her doorstep one winter's night. Whilst Marianne has had her share of men attracted to her because they want to rescue her, Keir makes no concession to her condition. He is abrupt to the point of rudeness, and yet oddly kind. But can Marianne trust her feelings for this reclusive stranger who wants to take a blind woman to his island home on Skye, to 'show' her the stars?This is an incredibly well written book. Gillard takes very sensitive issues such as blindness, the Piper Alpha crisis, pregnancy, death and love and talks about them brilliantly. She is not insensitive at all. This is a book that a lot of research has gone into and the descriptions are so real that my imagination was perfectly satisfied. For example, she describes the Piper Alpha memorial so well that the way I had imagined it was exactly what it looked like.I love the way Keir is written. Being blind is something that is hard to comprehend to the sighted, yet Gillard did this magnificently. She pointed out things which in hindsight seem very obvious, but I hadn't the faintest idea that blind people cannot comprehend colour or landscape if they have always been blind, purely because I have never thought about. Linda deals with this well, just by bringing this to my attention. Yet more than that, she shows a way of seeing when you are blind, and that is through music. Keir is great at this for Marianne, he seems to care and try hard for her, to help her comprehend and understand. This was done so well I keep catching myself trying to describe sights through music. This book has made a last impression on me.Gillard does jump between characters and the narrative, but the use of fonts and sub-titles makes this fine and very easy to follow. I quite liked this style of writing.The other character I loved was Marianne's sister Louisa. A bit of a romantic and fantasist, yet had everyone's best interests at heart and was always there for her sister in times of need. What a beautiful character.This is not a long book - 261 pages and such a good book it is a very quick read.I thoroughly recommend this book, it was amazing. One of the best books I have read in a long time.10/10

Review by
5

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.

Review by
5

Mills & Boon for grown-ups - I mean real grown ups who like reading and can even be a bit superior about the types of books they read. The narrator is a fiercely determined blind woman in her 40s who lives in Edinburgh with her older sister. All the characters are well-drawn although through the eyes of the sightless. Wonderful views are described but through smell, sound and touch. Reading woke all my non-visual senses from their slumber. I saw the world differently. As a disabled person myself, I can be hyper-sensitive about how disabled people are portrayed but I loved the main character - she was funny, exasperating and feisty - just how I would like to be written about myself. Linda Gillard has written a great debut novel and I would certainly read more of her work.

Review by
5

This lovely book goes down like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day; a delicious treat that leaves you with a warm, satisfied feeling on the inside. Marianne is blind – she has been so from birth. She deals with her condition through sarcastic humor and determination, and refuses to give in (consciously, at any rate) to anger: “Anger is a place I don’t go, a colour I never wear.” She lives in Edinburgh with her generous sister Louisa who is a charmingly self-deprecating writer of vampire fiction. Marianne, 45, is stubbornly independent, though she was once married - to Harvey, an oil man who died in an explosion at age 33. Now she meets another oiler, Kier, from the Isle of Skye, whose ability to describe nature by selections of music touches Marianne, and she finds herself falling in love. Louisa describes Kier as “a polymath. A geologist who’s interested in zoology, astronomy and music. He’d never admit it, but he’s also something of a poet, I think.” Imagine trying to describe color, or nature, or the stars to a blind person. Kier does this for Marianne through music, in a way that will enchant you as it does Marianne:"If you look east, one of the brightest stars you’ll see is Arcturus. It has a yellow-orange glow. Most stars look cold. Icy. They’d sound like…flutes. No, piccolos. Shrill. Arcturus looks warmer. A cello maybe…It looks like the stove feels when it gives off just a bit of heat. Arcturus glows, but it doesn’t burn or blaze like the sun. It’s like the feeling you might have for an old friend… or an ex-lover, one who still means something to you. Steady. Passionless. On second thoughts, make that a viola…How am I doing?"He teaches her a whole new way to interact with nature, and she teaches him a whole new way to accept his own differences. Kier is strong, patient, and gentle, but not like most other men. In a way, he is a reflection of the rugged, isolated, but welcoming land he calls home – a land that has vast, dramatic vistas under a rich canopy of twinkling stars.Marianne has always wanted to know what twinkling is like.” Kier explains to her, “It’s a kind of a pulse. A gentle throbbing of light. Not like a headache. A beautiful, magical throbbing…”The characters make no effort to paper over the constant linguistic gaffes of the sighted (“see what I mean?”), nor the ongoing difficulties the sightless have with coping. Yet this is not a morose book. On the contrary, it is humorous, touching, and upbeat. For example, when they are first getting to know each other, Kier asks Marianne if she ever saw the film “Harvey”:M. “I’ve never seen it.K. Have you ever seen any film?M. No. I’ve been blind since birth.”K. Aye, well, you missed a good one there.The social commentary is mordant and revealing, both of the protagonists and of ourselves. Marianne says at one point: “Oh, I’m scarcely a woman in the eyes of the world. I don’t see, so I don’t shop. I don’t have children. I don’t even have a man. In the eyes of the world, I’m just blind.”And blindness can be frightening. An incident when Marianne gets lost will have your heart pounding.Though the deprivation of sight is part of the story, your other senses will be stretched to the limit in this book, as you learn, along with Marianne and Kier, to “see” through other means. The eloquent results of their efforts to redefine visual reality through aural or tactile sensations are radiant paeans to the creative forces of love. And the love scenes themselves, in particular, are a revelation of sensory communication. I loved this book.

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