Saturday, 21 April 2012

Review of Catherine MacLeod's Daisychains of Silence

I have reviewed Daisychains of Silence on Amazon. This fine book offers some thought-provoking insights into the gestation and birth of a contemporary female soul and allowed me to explore similarities with my three main characters in The Cushion Effect.
The full review appears below. I encourage all my followers to read this excellent work.

An awesome silence: is it golden or guilt?

‘Memory believes before knowing remembers.’ William Faulkner’s dicho is apposite to the interwoven family tapestry worked impressively by Catherine MacLeod in Daisychains of Silence. The novel echoes any number of North American authors who use the patchwork quilt as a metaphor for the collage of life’s incidents and images. But here the metaphor of silken threads is subtler, more discerning, in the way the protagonist Deirdre/Daisy picks her way through the scenes of childhood bullying, adolescent abuse, and womanly betrayal. Eventually one comes to realise that Daisy, her adopted name, is indeed a whole, a complete person in her nature, whereas Deirdre, her given name, is forever a child nurtured to ill effect by her circumstances.

Set in the recent past and a generation earlier, the novel is at one and the same time a coming of age story, with unexpected surprises and a catalogue of unforeseen disasters that tempt the reader into visualising an inescapable descent into paranoia, and a redemptive coming to maturity saga, albeit with many questions still unanswered. There is an endearing, prophylactic innocence that shields the wilful Daisy from undue harm and yet, simultaneously, precipitates her into the arms of a parental struggle and sexual encounters, from the insidious and violent, to the needy and tender.

Initially the quiet retrospection of the adult Daisy attempts to come to terms with her mother’s forgetfulness, seemingly as contrived as pathological. The discovery of a hoard of realia from their past opens portals of discovery and self-knowledge which twist and turn in their elusiveness. Her memory is stirred to provide the reader with exquisitely drawn picture postcards from her past: early life in an idyllic rural Scotland; the horror of dorm life in a girls’ private school; the encounter with her father’s other woman; her first heterosexual love. As this young life evolves, the damage done by psychologically powerful characters brings to Daisy the unwanted attribute of, literally, an accident waiting to happen. Several accidents, perchance.

Her adolescent response is to secure her mouth in a punk-like, threaded daisychain pattern, a self-silenced Papageno who has come up empty chasing the bright birds of her youth. Although the reader appreciates her more voluble later self, Daisy’s silent quest for knowledge, sifting through the epistolary threads of her family life, leads her into a series of doubts that shakes her to the core of her being. Is her mother a murderer; is her partner a confirmed adulterer?

Characters in the novel are portrayed beautifully in depth by the writer. There is an emphasis on close-ups either through the eyes of the protagonist or from the viewpoint of her tormentors or supporters. This gives a sense of wonderment in the eye of the beholder. Daisy doesn’t do much or react to much in medium or long shot. This element enhances the confusion her younger self falls foul of and her latter day self is prone to. Exquisitely managed shocks to the trajectory of her life and indeed to the assumptions of the reader lend an intriguing mystery to the story that unfolds.  The result is an uneasy attachment to and admiration for Daisy that demands the outcome of her quest for the truth.

The way the emergent characters end the novel, aspiring daughter, faithful friend, forgiven partner, secret half-brother-in-law, suggests that Daisy has more than a few chapters more of self-discovery in what could be a very entertaining sequel. For now it is a pleasure to return to the family secrets in which as a child and youth she participates, and as an adult uncovers. Catherine MacLeod’s achievement is a rich embroidery of interwoven threads that stimulates thought, provokes consternation, and delivers surprise, shock and enlightenment at what lies beneath a dystopian family breakdown mirrored one generation after another. The book is a triumph of literary crossover fiction inspiring both young women of today and their maturer counterparts.


  1. Hello, I am a new follower(18). Thank you for stopping by! I hope your day is a good one and that you will come back again soon. Greetings from Rio de Janeiro/Brasil!
    Nelson Souzza/ Literatura&Linguagens

  2. One of my favourite books. I wish I'd written it. I wish I'd written this review too. Sadly, both are beyond me. Oh well, have to fall back on that old stand-by, worship. Not good for my 'bloke' image, but even so.

    1. Your own writing, Jake, belies your status as simply a worshipper! This best-selling author and intelligent reviewer has his own very fine collection of publications available on Amazon.