The phrase ‘life’s rich tapestry’ is given depth and meaning in MacLeod’s interesting and engaging novel. I picked this up thinking it would be an Aga Saga, but I was pleasantly disabused of this with an image that at first turned my stomach. I never knew needles could have such malevolent power. It was a haunting image which I could not stop thinking of. And the explanation of how embroidery is used to ‘silence’ kept me hooked throughout the novel – a clever thing to achieve – using a strong image to provide a gracenote under a complex structure. I felt that the novel was ‘patterned’ but without this impeding my enjoyment of the ‘story.’ The journey of Daisy (as Deirdre prefers to be known) is not just a bog standard romance. It is so much more than that.
I’m thinking that mainstream publishers wouldn’t allow this book to go out as it is. And that what they would do in tinkering with it for the mainstream romance market (where it could doubtless sit) would actually spoil all the depth and interest in it. Mainstream romances loss is the intelligent readers gain.
Because in this novel, the shifting narrative voice, which would confuse a standard romance plot, actually enhances the readers understanding of the complexity of human relationships. Daisy is trying to make sense of her life and most importantly her own failings – as well as uncovering the skeletons in her family’s closet. This is not a simple effort and MacLeod tries to look from numerous perspectives which gives the added interest that the reader is more or less forced to reflect on their own life experience/relationships and draw comparison and insight.
MacLeod makes the point that the stages of lives do not emerge with clarity until there is a moment of retrospective analysis and Daisy manages to achieve this, owning up to her own shortcomings along the way with an insight unfamiliar to the standard romance heroine.
The depth added by Daisy’s mother’s dementia is exceptional, reconfirming time and again that one day all the angst and indeed the meaning of life can be forgotten and thus become not just unimportant but not real. How Daisy copes with her mother now that their relationship is altered by dementia is one of the real strengths of the novel, yet it sits there, underneath the more obvious story, cleverly pulling the reader (and Daisy) up with the fact that there is another view of reality, and a possibility that ‘the truth’ or the ‘skeletons’ will never be revealed. The underlying structure is sound, despite some of the complexity, and the ending reaches a conclusion which satisfies and explains. More than that, we feel that Daisy has understood her life in a new way.
The embroidered daisychain motif running through the novel achieves a similar note. MacLeod really makes you think what the significance of such symbolism is. What does this mean? What does it really mean – not just to Daisy but to all of us. And that, I think, is why this novel has found such success with readers. Because it is a story many of us can relate to. A real story. Not of domestic romance but of the pain and trauma of love and family relationships over a lifetime. Reality. I contend that these strengths might well have been lost had she acquiesced to the demands of market driven romance novels. And I applaud her for standing up in the face of that. She is one of a growing number of ‘mid list’ authors who write for real people, about real people, not afraid to tell the story of women in their late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Daisychains of Silence is available in Kindle format
Find out more about Catherine McLeod