Book Review: Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
Rose is a textile artist with bipolar disorder who for years found her medication dulled her ability to work. After a stunning betrayal that landed her in a mental hospital, she has moved to a quiet, extraordinarily rural island in Scotland in an attempt to control her illness with as little medication as possible so she may still create her art. Her life isn’t quite as quiet as she imagined it would be, though, with a warm neighbor, Shona, who introduces her to her brother, a teacher and poet.
A rural island setting combined with art, romance, and mental illness–I knew this book and I would be fast friends before I even started reading it. What I discovered was a book that addresses multiple universal issues–grief, betrayal, loss, family ties–in a glorious setting that left me dying to visit Scotland, if only to discover what peat smoke smells like.
The style of this book is unique. Gillard easily transitions between perspectives, points in the time-line of Rose’s life, and even poetry versus prose. I was astounded to discover that I enjoyed the poetry portions creeping up in the book. They tend to happen at points of high emotion and exquisitely express the high highs and low lows someone with bipolar disorder goes through. The changing of perspectives and time-lines could sometimes feel a bit jarring; that could have been smoother done, but I appreciate the style and vibe Gillard is going for. It almost mimics the jarring highs and lows of bipolar disorder.
More importantly, though, the book exquisitely, gently shows that people with mental illness are just people like everyone else. They may feel things slightly more strongly or need to work harder to stay balanced, but the mentally healthy have emotions too. The mentally healthy can be thrown just as badly by life’s experiences. If I could sum up the book’s point, it would be that we all have scars.
So you see, Rose, if you would just step outside your own fucking head for a few moments, you’d see you’re not the only one with scars. In any case the worst ones, the most disfiguring are never visible to the naked eye.” He zips up his fly. “I can probably live with yours. Can you live with mine?” (location 3816)
This is an emotional, challenging, touching book to read. I recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction with a heart.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review