The Glass Guardian, Linda Gillard’s latest book, kept me spellbound. It’s a ghost story and a love story, with a bit of a mystery thrown in too. Ruth Travers is in her early forties and has just had a difficult year with the deaths of her lover, father and most recently her beloved aunt, Janet. Janet had lived in a house on the Isle of Skye, Tigh-na-Linne, the house where she had been born, and where her mother had lived with her three brothers who had all been killed in the First World War; the house where Ruth spent many childhood summers and the house Janet left to her in her will. After Janet’s death Ruth goes to live in the house to grieve and decide what to do next.
Set in a beautiful location, Tigh-na-Linnne is in a sorry state:
Rattling windows, water-stained ceilings and idiosyncratic plumbing paled into insignificance when one looked out of the big windows at the view over Loch Eishort, a sea loch, to the Black Cuillin mountains beyond and the distant islands of Canna and Rhum.
Ruth is in a very fragile state, having nightmares and is pleased to find that Tom, Janet’s gardener is her childhood friend, Tommy. But then she realises that everything in her childhood was not quite as she thought it was, or as she remembered it. As Ruth attempts to sort through her aunt’s belongings and decide whether to sell the house it becomes clear that there is more about her aunt and her family history than she ever knew before. And then she realises there is someone else in the house and there is a stained glass window behind a large wardrobe, which she never knew existed:
It’s a memorial window. There were three originally. One for each son who fell in the Great War. One of the windows was badly damaged in a storm and another got taken out when Janet had the conservatory built. But there’s one left. It’s behind that wardrobe.
From there on Ruth is unsure whether she is in her ‘Sane Mind’ or her ‘Insane Mind’, as she hears the wardrobe being dragged from its position in the dead of night.
I do like ghost stories and I had no trouble suspending my disbelief reading this book. The setting is so convincing, the characters so believable and even if I did see where the story was going to end that didn’t spoil it. This is a book that brought tears to my eyes and there aren’t many that do that! It deals so poignantly with death and the pain of loss, but it’s never sentimental and even though there are moments where you have to hold your breath, the supernatural element is not horrific.
N.B. I previously posted the opening paragraphs of this book.