A moving story about a woman who, having suffered a nervous breakdown after the love of her life left her suddenly and without a word, has started to piece together a quiet existence, unable to countenance building a new life without the man she loved. When her lost lover walks back in to her life as suddenly as he had left it, she is angry and afraid to trust him again but eventually gives in to the love that had always remained and they try to pick up the life they had before.
However, conflict soon emerges between the life that her lover has envisaged for them and the new life she has built for herself and which she is not so sure she wants to give up.
This is as much a story about a woman’s journey towards strength and independence as it is a love story and it is one that is told with style.
This is Kelly’s best novel so far.
If you preferred The Poison Tree to The Sick Rose then you’ll probably like this. If you’ve never read anything by Erin Kelly then this is the one to read.
The characters in The Burning Air show a return to the type of damaged yet vulnerable characters that we met in The Poison Tree, occupying a grey area of moral ambiguity, neither entirely good nor entirely bad. Many of the characters do bad things for what they believe are good reasons, even if we can see that their reasoning has been damaged by the events that have shaped them. I have read some reviews that claim that the characters are one dimensional and do not develop. I find it hard to understand how anybody could come to this conclusion. So much of the book is about character and the way its development can be nurtured or stilted by those around us.
The story essentially revolves around two families, the MacBrides and the Kellaways. The MacBrides are wealthy and privileged whereas the Kellaways, although perhaps intellectually equal and from a similar background, are a single mother, her son and a distant relative who live on the edge of poverty. Throughout the story there are parallels between the two families that raise questions about the nature of entitlement and how privilege effects society’s perception of it.
It has been a long time since I have read a novel that really made me think but this did, and it is quite a good plot too!
This is a book that grew on me the further into it I got. The author demonstrates a fluid, intelligent writing style and I considered it to be very well written.
It is very much a plot driven story with only brief descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, rather than paragraphs devoted to a single mountain. This isn’t literary fiction; the focus is on the action. Neverthless, the main character is likeable and believable and there are some hints towards the end of the story of character/life developments in later books. However, at 118 pages, it is quite short and I think that there was room for developing some of the relationships and allowing the reader to get to know some of the lesser characters. The plot itself is well constructed and, although slow to start, carries itself through to a plausible and satisfying conclusion, albeit one that leaves the way open for a sequel.
At times, I found myself having to delve deep into my memory to recall the meaning of some of the specifically Scottish tribal terms used or the historical/social significance of piece of the text and I think, without a basic understanding of Scottish history and tribal traditions a reader might find some parts difficult to understand and enjoy, particularly with regard to the meaning of some of the ancient titles and social positions. There is a very brief explanation at the end of the book (which I think would be more useful at the beginning) but I think that a few in text notes would be more helpful.
Apart from that, my only other criticism is regarding the front cover, which seems too modern for the story and would ordinarily have put me off.