Linda Gillard

Star Gazing

Star Gazing

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A poignant tale of love, loss, courage and hope.

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. 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.

Keir makes no concession to her condition. He is abrupt to the point of rudeness, 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?...

Linda Gillard writes...

STAR GAZING is set in Edinburgh and on the Isle of Skye, where I lived for six years. Trying to write about somewhere as beautiful as Skye is daunting. What can you say that hasn't already been said? How do you avoid descending into breathless travelogue cliché? But I'd enjoyed writing about the Hebridean landscape of North Uist in my first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, and I relished the challenge of writing about Skye.

I decided I would write about the landscape, but from an unusual point of view, or rather no point of view. I would make my heroine blind - and not just blind, but congenitally blind. She would have no visual frame of reference at all.

Elgol, Isle of Skye
Elgol, Isle of Skye (Photo: Adam Burton)

Could it be done? I didn't know. I wasn't blind or visually impaired and I didn't even know anyone who was, but I thought it might be interesting to write about landscape from a non-visual angle. It would also develop my writing in a new direction. (Western culture is so visually-fixated. We aren't very aware of our other four senses and writers don't employ them nearly as often in their work.)

So I embarked on my third novel in the spirit of an experiment. It was tricky to begin with. I kept dropping into "sighted-speak", but once I got into it, I actually found it quite easy and so much more interesting to write from a blind "point of view". I did some research of course, but mostly I relied on my imagination, shutting my eyes a lot and noticing how, when I did so, all my other senses immediately came into play. It was certainly a challenge having to create a hero by describing how he sounded, felt and smelt!

In STAR GAZING the hero, Keir, takes blind Marianne to Skye to "show" her the island, in particular the stars in the winter night sky. In the novel he succeeds in showing her the beauty of the island. I hope I managed to do the same for my readers.

German cover of Star Gazing
The cover of the German hardback edition of STAR GAZING

Love, Music and Blindness 

"Love cannot give an idea of music; music can give an idea of love. But why separate them? They are the two wings of the soul."
Composer Hector Berlioz in his Memoirs, 1865

In his book MUSICOPHILIA: Tales of Music and the Brain, neurologist Oliver Sacks cites the autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, writer and hero of the French resistance, who was gifted musically and played the cello before being blinded at the age of seven. In his memoir, AND THERE WAS LIGHT, Lusseyran wrote of the importance of music after he lost his sight:

"The first concert hall I ever entered, when I was eight years old, meant more to me in the space of a minute than all the fabled kingdoms... Going into the hall was the first step in a love story. The tuning of the instruments was my engagement... I wept with gratitude every time the orchestra began to sing. A world of sounds for a blind man, what sudden grace!... For a blind person music is nourishment... He needs to receive it, to have it administered at intervals like food... Music was made for blind people."

Awards, shortlists and translations

Linda's third novel, STAR GAZING was voted "Favourite Romantic Novel 1960-2010" by readers of Woman's Weekly magazine. The award was presented to Linda at a champagne breakfast hosted by novelist Katie Fforde, chair of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

In 2009 STAR GAZING was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year and for the UK's first environmental book award, The Robin Jenkins Literary Award, which promotes writing inspired by Scotland's landscape.

Translation rights to STAR GAZING have been sold to Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland, Romania and Brazil.