by Patrick Gale
Thursday, August 31, 2023
I’ve been moving house and not settling down to finish any of the books I’ve been reading. I joined the new library and figured I needed to find a book that would get me out of the slump of not finishing anything. So I turned to the new book by an author I know I love though I’d put off buying this because a story based on Charles Causley’s life didn’t sound terribly interesting to me. Anyway, it all worked out. I enjoyed the read and I finished it within the week, which given that the other books I was reading had been half done for weeks and weeks and weeks felt like an achievement.
It’s far from Patrick Gale’s best work (I’m always going to love Notes From An Exhibition which was the first book of his I read and I still think about it often) but it’s a more interesting story than I expected it to be. Maybe it should be obvious from the title but I liked how much the story was actually that of Charles’ mother Laura and how the book was about the shifting relationship between them. The lengthy time period makes it a case study of 20th century history as well, and though there were a few times when I felt it was telling me stories I’d already read many times before I think that was about what my brain needed at the moment rather than anything especially new.
It’s not a biography and it’s not clear what’s been made up and what hasn’t but I don’t think that really matters. I wouldn’t have read a biography and I don’t think this is an unsympathetic portrait. I enjoyed it and I know I’ll continue to enjoy Gale’s future work as well.