A word of warning about A LIFETIME BURNING: that’s definitely not one for the overly-sensitive! The content is pretty challenging (but there’s hardly any swearing as I recall.) STAR GAZING is a more comfortable read and can be given to anyone.
Obviously I was intrigued when Linda Gillard left the above comment on my review of her book Emotional Geology. It’s not that I’m overly sensitive but I’m always aware that some folks are. This is going to be a sketchy discussion of the book and the subject matter but I have to say that it’s a great read and not at all ‘tacky’.
A Lifetime Burning involves that most taboo of subjects – incest. Flora and Rory Dunbar are twins who have always been exceptionally close to each other and I think nowadays their family would be described as being dysfunctional. Their father was much older than their mother and so he was an old man by the time the twins came along. Maybe that’s why a blind eye was turned to things which should really have been tackled. It was easier to pretend that things weren’t going on than to face it and upset people. In fact just about everybody in the book is avoiding reality, which damages their lives and the lives of their supposedly nearest and dearest.
The action flips backwards and forwards in time between 1942 and 2000. I sometimes find books like that to be annoying but it wasn’t a problem with this one. I don’t want to say too much about the storyline but I did really enjoy this book, in spite of the shuddersome (is that a word) goings on. The subject was dealt with very delicately but I think that most of us would feel a bit squeamish at the thought of sexual relations between relations. I hope so anyway!
It’s a book which makes you think and I particularly liked the way Linda Gillard has the same themes repeating themselves down the generations. I’ve noticed that people often repeat the same mistakes which older family members have made, even when they’ve been completely unaware of the previous history. I suppose it must be genetic.
What makes some people hyper-sensitive to one thing whilst other people have a devil-may-care attitude to the same thing? I happened to mention to one of my sons recently that it was a pity that his brother’s girlfriend didn’t have a sister for him to go out with. My son was appalled at the thought : That would be like incest – he said! Lots of people have that sort of feeling though as often people won’t go out with friends’ ex partners as it’s all just too close for them. On the other hand there are plenty of people about who make it their mission in life to nick so called friends’ partners from them. Those were the ones who always wanted the toys that someone else was playing with when they were wee I suppose.
As far as I can make out incest normally happens between siblings mainly when they haven’t been brought up together and they meet each other when they’re adults. They say that they’re attracted by the things which they recognise, family traits I suppose. Which brings me to think that it’s more like extreme narcissism – taken to the nth degree.
I know that when I visited an Edinburgh mental hospital some of the young women were in there because they had been abused by their brothers and they were wrecks because of it. It makes you thankful that you were brought up in a normal family, whatever that may be!
I think A Lifetime Burning may be out of print now but might be available as an e-book.
At the end of the book Linda Gillard explains that music plays a large part in her life, as it does in the book due to the fact that the character Rory Dunbar is a well known concert pianist. She says that these are the pieces which Rory plays during the course of the book.
I just had to go on to You Tube so that I could hear them, so I thought other people might be interested too.
Beethoven Cello sonata in A, Op 69
Beethoven Piano sonata No 21 in C, Op. 53, Waldstein
Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag
Ravel Piano trio in A minor
Schubert Piano Sonata D.960 in B flat
Shostakovich Piano Concert No.2 in F, Op. 102
Shostakovich Prelude & Fugue No.1 in C