Gabriel's Gift is in many ways an old-fashioned coming-of-age novel that gives early adolescent angst its full pathos but Kureishi is saved from the potential mawkishness of his subject by prose attuned to the streets, pubs and people he writes about:
The place was full of childish men from the post office and the local bus garage gazing up at the big TV screen. Dad's grey-faced mates were playing pool. They all looked the same to Gabriel with their roll-ups, pints and musty clothes. They rarely went out into the light, unless they stood outside the pub on a sunny day, and they were as likely to eat anything green, as they were to drink anything blue or wear anything pink.
Gabriel's gift is that he is an artist trying to find his own colour-palette in the grey-tinged North London world described above and overcome the pain his parents' messy personal lives cause him. A meeting with Lester Jones, an ageing glam rock star, and former pal of Gabriel's somewhat hapless dad gives him the energy and opportunity to embark on his task of self-making and finding a better place in the world. Lester's lesson is that Gabriel's life and work need to be one thing. Gabriel's ally on this path is the voice of his remembered twin brother Archie. En route, his parents reconcile; his father finds some sense of purpose in teaching guitar and important friendships with his schoolmate Zak and the local gay restaurateur, Speedy, are formed.
The tentative sweetness of its protagonist remains the novels greatest strength. The writing is wistful, almost whimsical, though one misses a little of the anarchic nastiness that characterised the best of Kureishi's earlier work. --Neville Hoad
Matthew Craft"The Hartford Courant"Smart, sensitive, and brisk..."Gabriel's Gift" does what many of us are unable to do: It plumbs through the small deceits and cheap antagonisms of everyday family life and emerges open-eyed and smiling.