Top positive review
17 people found this helpful
Gale seeps slowly under your skin
on 23 February 2003
Let me start by saying I'm a fan of almost all of Patrick Gale's books.
This is one of Gale's earlier books. Anyone who is a fan will recognise the tell-tale signs of a Gale book - a middle class genre, a set of usually related characters, some of whom are not sympathetic, a storyline which often has a gently cheesy feel, and an ability to be horrible to characters, regardless of whether we like them. There is not always a happy ending, or even a neat one. What characterizes all books by Patrick Gale, and this one is no exception, is that the effect lasts longer than the first read. I am always left with a feeling of warmth, and a desire to know more.
I read this one over nine years ago, and like to return from time to time. The central mystery is of what happened to clever, introverted Robin, who ran away to a monastery, but years later comes back to disturb the lives of his friends and family in Clapham. These characters are living their own, largely self satisfied (or settled) lives, each with their own secrets, private jealousies and guilt about the past. The feel of a Patrick Gale book is always light, but if you give it time, it will catch up with you. The comedy and tragedy emerges from the mystery of which one of them was responsible for whatever made Robin run away.
The thing I like about this book is the title, 'Little bits of baby', the reinterpretation of a Nina Simone record by the precocious child Iras. It reflects what happens in the book, and the sometimes callous events that Gale conjures up.
Anyone looking for a serious exploration of mental illness, mixed race relationships, disability, gayness or anything else will be missing the point. Any of these things can be central to the identity of one of Gale's characters, but in most cases they are painted into the background unless they are central to the story or help move it along.
Anyone who wants a grand introduction to Gale, please read 'The Aerodynamics of Pork', a fine fairy tale if ever there was one. Then see how Gale has matured as a writer by reading the linked book 'Rough Music'. Anyone who does not admire how the same words in the first and last chapters of 'Rough Music' are transformed totally by what happens in-between doesnt have a heart.
Read this because it is a Patrick Gale, and you have to read them all.