Rose Leonard is on the run from her life. Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she'd hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has in fact chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter, and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise. But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her
This was a tough read. The subject matter that is. Rose is attempting to start fresh after an attempted suicide; a subject that I personally tend to stay away from. It's not a very enticing subject, and not very entertaining for obvious reasons. But sometimes it's not what is being said, but how one says it that matters. I could not have stomached this story if Gillard's writing had been any less beautiful.
It's fitting that it's a story about an artist, as it paints very vivid pictures. I envisioned landscapes and backdrops, in an array of colors and textures as Rose created each piece. I felt and shared Calum's frustration as he struggled to reach Rose, who was still trapped in the place between the death of her old life and the hope of a new one. I loved that their relationship grew through their art, and they found each other in her pictures and his poems.
I also hated Gavin. What a horror of a human being. And while I can't blame him for Rose's actions, those are hers to own and hers alone, I'd rather she tried to off him than herself. By the end of the story I had yet to come to terms with her daughter, Megan, and thinking on her now I'm still not sure that I could forgive her, even if her mother could.
The book takes place on an island off the coast of Scotland and the entire story is steeped in cold and damp, and the struggle to keep it out of the heart. Normally I would be opposed to the idea of two sad saps coming together but Rose and Calum's relationship was not one about healing by relying on another. I would not have been able to tolerate a needy, dependant, damaged love between two damaged people. Rose was adamant that she would be the one to fix Rose, and Calum never once interfered, each of them attending to their own pasts without making the other its keeper.
'You could have killed yourself. If you had slashed your throat instead of your wrists I doubt you would have survived.'
'I wanted to die!'
'You no longer wanted to live.'
'Is there a difference?'
'Oh, yes, a great deal of difference... We can do very little for those who want to die.'
Thanks to Angie @ Angieville who mentioned this book which caused me to buy it.