Friday, August 31, 2012

a perfectly good man: patrick gale

Fiction Friday - A Perfectly Good Man

As a child I spent many happy summers in Devon and Cornwall; eating ryvita and sandwich spread on the pebbly beaches, surfing the waves with my body-board and my Dad; wandering the dark lane that led to the farm b&b that we stayed in, wondering at the glow flies; sliding down the sileage and hay piles and taking in the harsh gashes that the Cornish mining landscape offered up.  When I chanced upon a Perfectly Good Man its prose returned me once more to those carefree days on holiday, as Gale returns to his beloved Cornish coastline to weave a wonderful story full of glimpses of the imperfections of human life.

The story begins with the suicide of Lenny, a previously healthy 20 year-old who is paralysed from the waist down.  His wilful act of self-violence is reluctantly witnessed by Barnaby Johnson, the parish priest.  From therein, Gale's characters call you to witness the drama's of their lives, Barnaby's wife Dot, children Carrie and Jim and his lover are all forcible characters; believable in their foibles and Gale positions the heavy sub-plots of adoption, church and faith against a gentle tale of a man and his family.

I loved Gale's Notes from an Exhibition, again set in Cornwall and likewise, this novel had me breathlessly turning pages until the last chapter - leaving me bereft and wanting more.  Gale has the ability to document the small and personal dramas of his characters in a way that makes them more than 3-dimensional, more real than real! Buy , beg or borrow; it won't disappoint.

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