Today I am delighted to be taking part in the BlogTour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald. I admire her tenacity and audacity when it comes to the topics she has approached in this book.
About the Author
Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.
Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.
About the Book
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.
When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.
Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.
First and foremost I have to congratulate the author on her characters, to be more specific the age range she picked for her characters. There is a tendency in all fiction to choose the handsome young man and the young nubile woman, perhaps more so the latter. MacDonald has chosen two middle-aged women, Felicity and Sarah, and their prospective partners for this particularly realistic venture into women’s fiction.
The reader follows the lives of both Felicity and Sarah as they become linked via a charming man called Coll. Sarah is Coll’s girlfriend and Felicity is his new obsession.
This story is about the way women of a certain age are perceived by society, and the way they feel about it. Their youth is a fond memory of forbidden pleasures, spontaneity and a time when middle-age was merely a blip on the future horizon.
There is a general misconception about age changing the wants, needs and desires of people. This misconception is shared and believed by younger generations. They are often horrified, sometimes amused, by the fact both women and men still want physical intimacy when they hit middle-age or pension-age. The real question is, why shouldn’t they want that?
Sarah and Coll have a relationship, which I would deem on the abusive side. Anyone who insults you, degrades you and makes you feel insecure, and invalid on a regular basis, is guilty of verbal and emotional abuse. Coll is a classic manipulator. He likes to control the narrative, especially when it comes to his own needs. His own insecurities are projected onto Sarah in a way that makes it appear as if she is to blame. Again this is a classic scenario of control. Over lengthy periods of time abuse victims begin to believe the false narrative and live up to it, which is a typical self-fulfilling prophecy setting. The victim often doesn’t identify this behaviour as abuse.
One of the elements of this story I was really interested in was the use, lack of or withdrawal of intimacy as a tool of power and manipulation. The reader can actually see how Sarah rationalizes his actions as the story unfolds.
Felicity is actually more self-aware, however she is still suffering the consequences of her mid-life crisis. Yes, women have them too. She is honest about what she needs and what her body needs. Her attempt to re-establish her old life creates discord between her children and her soon to be ex-husband. Felicity wants her old life back and yet at the same time she wants to walk upon a different path entirely.
MacDonald strips away any kind of illusion or semblance of hope that the middle stage of life gets any easier when it comes to love, relationships and life in general. It is probably just a tad more difficult, because physical appearance and health tends to decline.
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a subtle reminder that women should champion other women instead of breaking them down. It is also a strong statement about the emotional destruction an abusive relationship can cause, especially when the abuse is often a non-visible one, as opposed to a visible physical one. The book also takes the bull called infidelity by the horns and treats it to a violent ride of culpability. The kind of ride you don’t want to miss.