“A Sweet Obscurity” by Patrick Gale (2003) – book review – & P.G.’s ‘Top Eleven Book List’

Over the years, I have steadily clocked up more and more Patrick Gale books here and there and have become quite the fan.

I even find myself getting quite excited about his chats at the end of each novel, where we learn a bit more about his life on farm and his playing the cello and singing bass at such sorties as the St Endellion Summer Festival.

Am equally happily regaled by his tales of having been “blessed in coming from the sort of family where everyone reads at meals”, and like his philosophy that “Reader and writer together need to feel they’ve emerged on the other side of the novel’s events with a broader sympathy or a better understanding”.

Patrick Gale also happens to be married to his farmer, which makes me very happy for him but saddened that he has to come off the wall, for secretly think him quite the pin-up. Sigh.

He is another Cornish author, alongside Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham, who tends to position Cornwall as an almost tangible character, and often has a very different and frequently refreshing take on the country life, extracted from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. The latest read was “A Sweet Obscurity”, which grew on me the more I got into it. As is often the case, would urge caution in reading up too much before embarking on the tale, for fear of the inevitable revelations coming out of left side and spoiling the plot, which is a good one.

I do agree, however, with many of the reviewers who fault with the depiction of the 9 year-old Dido: she is at times far too precocious to be completely credible, and there are scenes that border on the unlikely. Circumstances and her parental situation have dictated to make her mature and even maternal beyond her years, but something just jars in the demonstrating of this, and it is only as we reach the very end of the book that suddenly all is forgiven and as a reader you feel cross with yourself for your earlier reactions. I suspect it’s the depiction of the roles of her entourage that are more to blame, but hope am not putting any potential readers off, for there is very much indeed to enjoy. This book is one of those rare creatures, as it were, in that it goes against the usual trend of being in danger of tailing off towards the latter pages – here I thought that ending was very strong indeed. And a special mention for Julia, who initially has the thankless task of playing the ‘new wife’, and whose character evolves so beautifully during the story. For me, she rather stole the show.

I see from the author’s Galewarning website that a new book (“A Place Called Winter”) comes out later this year, which is a cause for celebration, and am just frustrated not to be able to see my Literary Pin Up in person when he appears at the forthcoming Edinburgh Book Festival from mid August – maybe next year? Will just have to live vicariously through other blogposts and stick it on the Bucket List in the meantime.

Read in December 2014.

Rating : 9/10

Patrick Gale’s ‘Top Eleven Books’ (as appeared in 2009 edition of “A Sweet Obscurity”):

“Persuasion” by Jane Austen, read, 8/10

Middlemarch” by George Eliot, read August 2015, 10/10, VERY FAVOURITE READ

“Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin

“The Bell” by Iris Murdoch

“Collected Stories” by Mavis Gallant

“The Wings of the Dove” by Henry James

“Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Anne Tyler (oops, least favourite A.T. read so far, gave it a miserly 7/10)

“A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” / “Remembrance of Things Past” by Marcel Proust – read aged 18, ought to re-read aged 18+35 years’ old, 10/10

“The Flint Anchor” by Sylvia Townsend Warner

“The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins

“Collected Stories” by Saki.

Suddenly feeling deadly uncultured.

Images taken from here and here.
This entry was posted in Book Lists, Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “A Sweet Obscurity” by Patrick Gale (2003) – book review – & P.G.’s ‘Top Eleven Book List’

  1. Kay says:

    I loved his book – notes from an exhibition – mental health and family life – fab read

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved it too – great read – I was very strong and resisted getting his new one in hardback this week. Have to learn to say no and hold my horses…. Nxx


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