The Glass Guardian
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Linda Gillard's sixth novel, THE GLASS GUARDIAN is a supernatural love story set on the Isle of Skye.
From I PREFER READING's book blog:
"The legacy of WWI combined with a romantic ghost story set in wintry modern-day Skye was the most all-consuming reading experience I had this year. I read it virtually in one sitting, just wonderful."
Ruth Travers has lost a lover, both parents and her job. Now she thinks she might be losing her mind.
When death strikes again, Ruth finds herself the owner of a dilapidated Victorian house on the Isle of Skye: Tigh na Linne, the summer home she shared as a child with her beloved Aunt Janet, the woman she'd regarded as a mother.
As Ruth prepares to put the old house up for sale, she's astonished to find she's not the only occupant. Worse, she suspects she might be falling in love... With a man who died almost a hundred years ago.
An old genre, a new departure
THE GLASS GUARDIAN is a ghost story - an old-fashioned ghost story with a large neglected house and a vulnerable (though not young) heroine at its heart. The paranormal genre is a new departure for me, but ghosts - or the possibility of ghosts - have featured in previous novels. EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, A LIFETIME BURNING, STAR GAZING and UNTYING THE KNOT all feature ghosts or characters who play a ghost-like role in the story.
When I was planning my third novel, STAR GAZING I thought of making the hero some sort of ghost, perhaps the ghost of the widowed heroine's dead husband, but in the end I decided readers would prefer a flesh and blood hero, so I abandoned my ghost story idea. But it didn't lie down and die.
Most paranormal romances feature vampires or werewolves, urban settings, graphic and prolonged sex enjoyed by attractive young heroines who are quite capable of fighting their way out of a tight corner, with or without the help of the grouchy-but-gorgeous alpha male immortal. THE GLASS GUARDIAN is a very different sort of book.
My heroine is a 42-year old horticulturalist. Her career is in the doldrums and her emotional life is in crisis. A family bereavement has left her lumbered with an old house on the Isle of Skye, in need of much refurbishment: Tigh-na-Linne, "the house by the pool". It has a sad history, a beautiful garden and spectacular views. It's where Ruth spent many happy summers as a child.
But Tigh na Linne also has a resident ghost - a ghost who needs Ruth's help...
To say more would spoil the story, but THE GLASS GUARDIAN deals with themes common to most of my books: memory, loss, grief, music, family, friendship and of course love. Several of my novels have examined the catastrophic consequences of falling in love with the wrong person. THE GLASS GUARDIAN asks, what happens when you fall in love with a ghost? I hope you enjoy the answer.
We, in dreams, behold the Hebrides
Below is an extract from the poignant and oft-quoted "Canadian Boat Song", published in Blackwood's Magazine, September 1829.
This was a translation of the Gaelic song, originally sung by Gaelic-speaking Canadian oarsmen who rowed travellers down the St Lawrence river.
Listen to me, as when ye heard our father
Sing long ago, the song of other shores;
Listen to me, and then in chorus gather
All your deep voices, as ye pull your oars.
Fair these broad meads, these hoary woods are grand,
But we are exiles from our father's land.
From the lone shieling of the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebrides.
Suggestions for further reading
Although THE GLASS GUARDIAN is a contemporary love story, the nature of the tale meant I had to research life in the trenches during World War I.
Sometimes research for a novel can be a bit of a chore, but this wasn't the case with THE GLASS GUARDIAN. The more I read about World War I, the more fascinated - and horrified - I became.
Thanks to the popularity of the poetry of Owen and Sassoon, novels such as Erich Maria Remarque's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Sebastian Faulks' BIRDSONG and Vera Brittain's memoir TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, we think we know all about World War I. We don't.
The contemporary accounts in diaries and letters written by serving soldiers were a shocking revelation to me, all the more moving for their heroic understatement and the general absence of self-pity. I could use very little of my research in the novel itself, but I hope it informs the book and adds depth to a character who says little, but feels much.
I found two books particularly interesting and would recommend them to the general reader...
SCOTTISH VOICES FROM THE GREAT WAR by Derek Young (The History Press)
A study of the Scottish troops who served in World War I. This book covers everything from food and free time to brutal trench warfare, using the letters and diaries of soldiers who served in the Scottish divisions.
THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY by Paul Fussell (Oxford University Press)
A landmark study of the historical and cultural background of World War I. Fussell examines why this war produced so much great literature, particularly poetry.
IMAGINARY FRIENDS: A Footnote
"It used to be thought that children with imaginary friends were in the minority. It has sometimes been assumed that children had imaginary friends because they were lonely and lacked real friends. Perhaps this is why some parents and others may show concern when a child has an imaginary friend, particularly once they have started school, and older children and adolescents tend to keep their imaginary friends a secret.
In a study in the United Kingdom, 1,800 children completed a questionnaire about imaginary friends. 46% of them reported past or current imaginary friends, including 9% of 12-year-olds.
Certainly, it is now recognised that imaginary friends are often part of normal development. Young children with imaginary friends are often described as sociable, imaginative children who love stories and pretend play. They enjoy playing with friends and at times when friends are not available, they call on their imaginary friends for entertainment. Children also call on their imaginary friends when they feel upset about something that has happened or about what some one has said to them.
Some children will talk to their friend about the problem, others will play with their imaginary friend, which takes their mind off the problem and the unhappy feelings disappear. We also know that some children who have endured traumatic life events may also draw on their imaginary companions for support...
Imaginary friends are often a very positive feature in a child's life. They provide fun, entertainment, adventures and games. They are often good, kind and helpful friends, good at listening and always available."
Dr. Karen Majors
Community Psychology Service, Barking and Dagenham (BBC News)
[Author's note: Substitute author for child/children, fictional characters for imaginary friends, and you have something like a description of a writer's creative process. My teenage son used to refer to my writing, somewhat disparagingly, as "talking to your imaginary friends".]