#BlogTour #BookReview - The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

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.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket today. Many thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater for inviting me and for my advance review copy of the book.
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket features characters from Linda's previous 'Lydia' books, I haven't yet had a chance to read them but it works perfectly well as a standalone novel too. Despite being a change of pace to most of the books I read I was soon engrossed the lives of the women featured here. Told from both Felicity and Sarah's perspectives, the dual narrative works really well as it means we have a more clear picture of just what is happening than the women themselves often do. There's something of the confessional about how both Sarah and Felicity tell their stories, the reader becomes their friend as they reveal their innermost thoughts and fears. This isn't a novel about the first flush of young love, it's about the middle years when a need to feel loved is juxtaposed with the desire not to be alone at this stage of life. Felicity is having to face life alone after the breakdown of her marriage. Her mid-life crisis led her to an affair with a younger man but that has ended and she finds herself missing her old life, particularly now her husband has a new partner who is spending more and more time in the home they once shared. She is also drawn to Coll, a local artist who asks to display his paintings in her restaurant. She suspects the attraction is mutual but although she is flattered, she can't help but try to interfere in her husband's new relationship too. I must admit that for some of the novel I wasn't especially keen on Felicity, she seems manipulative, selfish and unwilling to face up to her part in her marriage breakdown. What she doesn't know is that the seemingly charming Coll may be flirting with her but he also has a long term partner. Sarah is the epitome of long suffering. After tragically losing her husband, she fell in love with Coll but he doesn't deserve her love. He regularly develops feelings for other women - so much so that Sarah has nicknamed them the OWs - and is frequently critical to the point of cruelty to her. Although I liked Sarah it was frustrating seeing just how much bad behaviour she tolerates from Coll.
This is very much a book about real life and so although there are arguments and tears there are no huge dramatic scenes, instead Linda MacDonald has created something far more believable. As the truth is slowly revealed the characters need to make decisions about their futures. Featuring mature characters gives a different slant to their dilemmas as these aren't young people just setting out in life, instead they are faced with decisions about whether to fight or let go of the past; is facing a future alone is preferable to settling for the familiarity of a long term relationship? Refreshingly both Sarah and Felicity (who I eventually warmed to as I understood her more) are portrayed as completely realistic mature women. They still want to feel loved and desired and are still confused by the intricacies of relationships. Coll is a rather pathetic character and the only person I didn't grow to like although I did rather pity him.
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is absorbing, touching and believable. Although it tackles deep and complex issues relating to destructive relationships it does so with wit and warmth. I became invested in the lives of these characters as I hoped they would eventually find the strength to move on to the next phase of their lives, whether in a committed relationship or as a single woman. This is a lovely reminder that quieter, observational stories of everyday lives can be just as rewarding to read as the fast-paced thrillers.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is published by Matador Books and can be purchased here. Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Linda MacDonald is the author of four novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. All Linda’s books are contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths’, Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. The first two novels took ten years in writing and publishing, using snatched moments in the evenings, weekends and holidays. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham in Kent.