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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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.
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on 23 March 2014
This is an early book and it clearly shows that Patrick Gale has been a good writer from the start but also that he has improved a great deal since then. A light read but worth it.
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on 7 June 2015
Haven't read the book yet but author is excellent in my opinion so am sure it will be good.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2002
I used to enjoy Patrick Gale's books. But after reading this one, it struck me that he's in danger of becoming a one-trick pony - ever-so-cute dysfunctional characters living in an ever-so-comfortable middle class dream world. If this was supposed to be comedy, I didn't find his heavy-handed portrayal of mental health problems or disability much of a giggle. Particularly frustrating is his inability to address the real-life problems gay couples face every day of their lives - and this after he sets up a mixed race relationship and chucks in a throwaway line about the problems the father of one of the main characters has with his son being gay. This is never explored or developed. I'm not asking for tub-thumping, right-on PCness from every writer - I'd just like to think Gale lives in the same world as the rest of us.
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on 12 March 2015
Yet, again a good read
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2011
I thought well of Patrick Gale and OK this is an early book, but I did not expect trashy.
Nothing to care about, dire portraits of children and babies especially ugly - a newborn baby with a 'filthy temper', a four year-old 'spoilt' - are we in 1930's? Marriages so unconvincing I had to laugh, and the central premise, that everyone male or fema;le would have liked to make love to Robin, entirely unconvincing as there was nothing remotely attractive about the character.
A silly trashy novel.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2005
This is my second Patrick Gale book - my first was 'A Sweet Obscurity'. I began to feel quite annoyed with that one as I neared the end. I try not to judge a book by its cover though (pardon the pun) so thought I'd give him a go again. Unfortunately the annoyance began about 20 pages in with this one, but I like to see things through so I persevered. What a bunch of self-satisfied, smug characters. Yes I know they are meant to irk one a little, but really. There seemed to be no real 'feeling', a lack of responsibility from the characters themselves regarding their actions. It felt like a very staged, self-conscious book. Maybe the author is not a fan of children - as with Dido in A Sweet Obscurity, Iras is too precocious to be warmed to. Jasper, who is admittedly a handful, is treated with contempt by many of the characters when to me he is the more reasonable of the two children. Yet nobody stands up for him. The whole book just felt wrong, forced and I really did not like it. Maybe I am a masochist but I am tempted to try another Patrick Gale to see if this pattern continues.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2001
A compelling story of young Robin, who returns to London after 8 years in a monastery and changes the lives of people he left behind. Like Gale's other novels, I enjoyed Little bits of Baby because it is full of lovable characters, whose lives get mixed up through a series of comical events.
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