Friday, May 22, 2015

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

Title:  The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley
Author:  Susan Ornbratt
Publication Information:  Light Messages Publishing LLC. 2015. 340 pages.
ISBN:  161153111X / 978-1611531114

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I have a magnificent obsession."

Favorite Quote:  "Promise me, Gilly that you'll never lose your zest for life? It's the one precious thing we have. Without it, we may as well not live at all."

The cover of The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley tells us it is a love story. The first chapter tells us how the love story ends. Gillian Pugsley is dying. Her granddaughter and namesake is her joy in life. She gives her granddaughter a set of poems and reveals to her that though she loved her husband, he was not the love of her life. There was another. "My first love and in some ways a love that cannot be measured by time, a love that has never grown old." Furthermore, she directs her granddaughter, "Our story - my story - is in these poems. I love the rest to your imagination."

So, in the first chapter, we know Gillian had a first, true love. She lived a good life, but not with that true love. The remainder of the book gets at the reason why. Unfortunately, when the revelation does come, it is somewhat anti-climatic.

The story flashes back and forth across three time periods. In the present time, Gillian is at the end of her days and finally sharing her story with her granddaughter. In the 1930s, an eighteen year old Gillian leaves her Ireland home and travels to Canada, where she meets Christian. They fall unequivocally in love, but something causes Gillian to leave without telling him why. In 1946, Christian comes to Ireland looking for his "Gilly," hoping to find his true love and hoping for answers.

The nonlinear structure of the book means it jumps between the time periods chapter to chapter and sometimes within the same chapter. It becomes difficult to invest in the characters. The structure seems to keep the story at a surface level, and not delve deeper into the characters. For example, the book describes the event that causes Gillian to leave Canada. The character involved is barely introduced. The event is described in a couple of pages and ends with "Tears streamed down Gillian's face as she ran and swore she'd never return." Nothing further. The book does not reveal the immediate ramifications for either Christian or Gillian.

When Christian comes looking for her over a decade later, it is clear that he knows what happened. Yet, the book does not delve into why it took a decade for him to come looking. Warranted, their lives are interrupted by World War II, but that time period is just a mention in the book. Christian suffers a major injury in the war, but that too is not explored.

The ending of the book - the fact that Gillian and Christian do not spend their lives together - also comes about quite abruptly. It does not flow from the story that comes before but rather is something random that sadly happens in life. It seems a punctuation mark to end the story rather than a natural conclusion.

The book describes the events of this love story, but somehow, the emotions and depth seem lacking. Unfortunately, the story just never quite comes together for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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