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A Perfectly Good Man [Paperback]

Patrick Gale
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 May 2012

The new novel from Patrick Gale, author of Richard & Judy-bestseller ‘Notes from an Exhibition’, returning readers to his beloved Cornish coastline.

‘Do you need me to pray for you now for a specific reason?’
‘I’m going to die.’
‘We’re all going to die. Does dying frighten you?’
‘I mean I’m going to kill myself.’

When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy's reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest – the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby's repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous.

Returning us to the rugged Cornish landscape of ‘Notes from an Exhibition’, Patrick Gale lays bare the lives and the thoughts of a whole community and asks us: what does it mean to be good?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (24 May 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007465084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007465088
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. He now lives on a farm near Land's End. He's a passionate gardener, cook, and cellist. His fourteen novels include A Perfectly Good Man and Notes From an Exhibition - both of which were Richard and Judy Bookclub selections, The Whole Day Through and Rough Music. You can find out more on his website www.galewarning.org.

Product Description


‘Guaranteed to give the reader a warm glow’ Independent

‘Warm and humane, this novel is beautifully written’ The Times

‘This being Gale there’s a compelling tale to be told … a convincing, moving account of man’s struggle with faith, marriage and morality’ Sunday Times

‘The unfolding nightmare for all the family of the consequences of adopting are exquisitely and painfully documented… The final chapter left me with a lump in my throat’ Salley Vickers, Guardian

‘At his best, Gale is an effortlessly elastic storyteller, a writer with heart, soul, and a dark and naughty wit, one whose company you relish and trust’ Julie Myerson, Observer

About the Author

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. He now lives on a farm near Land's End. His most recent novels are The Whole Day Through and the Richard & Judy bestseller Notes from an Exhibition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and marvellous. 31 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Patrick Gale's latest offering is wonderful and marvellous. I can't remember when I've read a book that has so moved and enchanted me.I live in West Cornwall and was born here. I know all the places where Patrick Gale sets the story. They've been familiar to me since I was a child. This has added considerably to my enjoyment of his novel. I'm also an Anglican priest and and in my ministry share much of what Patrick writes.
It is the story of a vicar, the triumphs, the failures, heart-aches, the loves, the doubts and set backs of this man. I loved especially the portraits and stories of each character in the novel. There are many flash-backs to former years and this method of recalling the past into the present is extremely effective. Tears and laughter follow each other like sunshine after rain.
I've read most of the author's books and I think this is his best...Wonderful and marvellous is an apt appellation.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful, Useful Novel 12 Aug 2012
Patrick Gale is perhaps slightly overlooked as a literary novelist but he is certainly that. His novels and short stories may give the appearance of undemanding narratives but I suspect there's a lot of craft in making them so and there is certainly a lot of art in making them something beyond just very good stories. His novel A Perfectly Good Man is a perfect fusion of craft and art. And it is subtle from the start; we know that the phrase 'perfectly good' is not all that it seems even if the 'but' that might follow it is unsaid.

A Perfectly Good Man is written from the view point of a over half a dozen characters, each chapter being the character at a particular age, allowing the narrative to build from person to person. What is especially interesting is that the character studies are not chronological so understanding of history and motivation is released only gradually. It would be interesting to read just the character studies of one character at a time or to read the studies in chronological order. If this were an e-book we might do this easily but I suspect Patrick Gale is not a writer who wants to play with form in this way and that he wants to tell the story as he wants it told. Fair enough.

The novel is prefaced with a quote from Thomas à Kempis about our imperfections from his De Imitatione Christi. The same book features in the novel, but more importantly it is the idea that any one person has dark and light in their personality, and that both nature and nurture has a part to play in making people, that underpins A Perfectly Good Man.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfectly good read 4 Mar 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Another beautifully written masterpiece from Patrick Gale. The dramatic countryside of Cornwall is the backdrop for this tale of good and not so good. Father Barnaby is present at the suicide of Lenny, a young parishioner paralysed in a rugby accident.
Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character, from different times in their lives. Gale is a master storyteller who cleverly keeps his audience guessing and reveals snippits of information so as a reader you are constantly re-evaluating what you know of the characters. A fantastic read, and a definite contender for my book of the year already. I would love to say so much more, but don't want to ruin your enjoyment of this book by spoiling any of the treats and surprises that are in store for you, read it for yourself and enjoy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars loved this 26 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just finished this book - one of those where i really didnt want it to end and just wanted to go on and on discovering more about the characters. Beautifully written - at first i was surprised how it sprang from one time period to another; then realised how the pattern helps to pull all the story together and you can begin to see how the characters relate to each other and the impact they have on each others lives. I was gripped from the opening chapter and then again , half way through the book, had to take myself back there to re read it once I realised the startling revelation. DO read this, i dont think you will be disappointed - 5 stars!!!!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Forgive us our trespasses' 13 April 2012
By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Patrick Gale has again settled happily into using what is close to hand. This is a great joy for everyone who loves his home patch of West Cornwall. He makes it perfectly clear that his characters are made up but the places are real and you can visit them - thank goodness for his not messing about with their true names.

Reading A Perfectly Good Man made me dizzy, as if plunging my face into the most delicious rose and emerging slightly drunk with scent and beauty. The times and people are chopped about, at first apparently seeming randomly. Later it collects up neatly into a perfect whole. In the absence of a list I have copied out the chapter headings just to indicate what kind of layout the story takes. No need to read through all these, just take in the pattern.

Lenny at 20, Dorothy at 24, Barnaby at 60, Modest Carlsson at 64, Barnaby at 52, Dorothy at 34, Barnaby at 40, Carrie at 11, Barnaby at 29, Modest Carlsson at 55, Nuala at 36, Jim at 12, Barnaby at 21, Lenny at 14 , Carrie at 35, Barnaby at 16, Modest Carlson at 75, Phuc at 27, Nuala at 56, Barnaby at 8.

All important threads run properly through the time lapses, with thoughtfully chosen seeds deftly planted to emerge fruitfully later. Comfortably, characters from previous work reappear, the Quaker family of Rachel Kelly being a joy to meet again.

The tale revolves around Barnaby, a quiet parish priest who looks after the churches of Morvah and Pendeen. Beautifully told and movingly tied up, the world of this far country parish is alive with secrets, devices and desires of the heart, appearances and, lurking in the shadows, a sly, evil worm in the bud.

I have read every book written by Patrick Gale and am a great admirer.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What a beautiful surprise
I downloaded this this without reading anything about it. But what a wonderful surprise.

Beautifully written, I thought at first the jumping about in the timeline would... Read more
Published 1 day ago by N. Timpson
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not his best book ,but still a good read
Published 17 days ago by Annie Bury
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully drawn characters
Beautifully drawn characters, I loved the way the story unfolded as we got to know them, moving forward and back through time. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Kim Glass
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good
Published 26 days ago by REV DENNIS G MIHILL
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what i would expect from this author
Not sure at all about this book with its constant shifts in time.
I usually really like Patrick Gale's writing. This time a bit unsure. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Avid reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Author
Arrived quickly in very good condition.

Love this Author just found his books, would recommend.

Must try some more . Thank you.
Published 2 months ago by lizziemops
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Gale : "A Perfectly Good Man"
I have bought and read almost all of Patrick Gale's book, he is a really interesting author. As a gay, married man he explains many aspects of his life through his books which are... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mrs S A Trick
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully good book
Once I started reading I didn't want to put it down. Although the book is written in sections each is so well told it is totally absorbing. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Suzy Q
3.0 out of 5 stars It was well written but I found it a bit dull
This is a well written book and I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, but I was disappointed as I felt that even by the end I didn't really know or care about the characters. Read more
Published 4 months ago by A J D Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars family saga in Cornwall
We read this for book club and it provoked a long and varied discussion. In this dysfunctional family you encounter a whole swathe of life 'traumas' suicide, lesbianism, divorce,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. A. West
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