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3.5 out of 5 stars19
3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 1 December 2009
This is rather an odd book. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and the plot runs all over the place and at varying speeds. Sometimes it drags over nothing very much and then a seemingly vital episode is rushed along too quickly. The main character is Lawrence and most of the narrative is devoted to him but he's rather a closed book, difficult to understand and therefore to empathise with. It starts out well enough as the unfortunate man is accused of murder but then that story is rushed to a hasty conclusion in the course of an early chapter and suddenly we are off on a free Carribbean cruise (handy!) surrounded by a plethora of frankly bizarre characters none of whom are explored in any depth so we don't really care about them either. A great deal of time (too much?) is spent on the cruise to very little effect and then that storyline is rushed to a rapid end too following an unlikely run-in with a tiger!

After that we are spun off into several little threads; the murder plot makes an unexpected re-appearance, an unsuccesful attempt is made to flesh out the wife and mother characters and there are a couple of highly unlikely co-incidences that take quite a bit of swallowing. I wasn't at all surprised to read an interview where the author admits to not really following any kind of plan in this book - he just let the characters do what they wanted to do!

Despite all this, I did enjoy 'Tree Surgery'. Patrick Gale is capable of writing with a delicious wit that is sometimes not very evident in his more 'serious' works. Here, I believe his tongue is very often firmly in his cheek - at least, I hope so...surely no-one could have created a character like Lala and expect her to be taken seriously! Ultimately though, it is let down by its characters and a lack of warmth. Tragic things happen in this book and yet they pass for nothing, we don't care because everything and everyone is so thinly drawn - a pity!
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on 24 November 2008
I have really loved some of Patrick Gale's books, particularly Rough music, A Sweet obscurity and Notes from an Exhubition but this was a sad disappointment. Sad as the plot was beyond ridiculous, disappointing because it all started out so well with some very promising characters and themes but the co-incidences in the second half of the book defy all credibility and had me laughing out loud in disbelief. However it wont stop me reading more of this very entertaining author and I would reccommend him to anyone - just not this book!
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on 12 May 1999
I read this book recently on the strength of reading Gale's collection of short stories (a gift). The unlikely title and some of the plot-details on the cover may be off-putting to some. This would be a pity because Gale tells a story of many layers which succeeds because you actually care about nearly every character, and the intrigue of the plot as each character develops. (Yes the plot does depend on some unlikely coincidences, but by the time these are recognised, you don't really care, because of the way it works for the characters). At the end you understand the seemingly bizarre title, in fact the bittersweet conclusion left me a little moist-eyed. (Only Mark Helprin's books have done that to me before.)
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on 14 December 2013
One of his best. I gradually understood the meaning of the title, which was cleverly worked out although the situations the characters found themselves in were quite extreme as a result. A good story with a host of well perceived characters, portrayed with clarity and humour.
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on 15 March 2009
A wonderful, comic, light hearted, life affirming novel. It starts in a dark place and feels as if the characters perform a dance to the author's music, to end in the warmth and light. As the novel ends "How do we manage to go so awry, break so utterly apart and still find the strength to continue?"

I would have rated this higher, but I felt that there was a forced section in the middle of the book where the author wanted to tie up loose ends, that did not have the same authorial voice, before he proceeds to his warm conclusion.
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on 5 October 2005
Gale carves up the Family Tree & puts it back together in ways that surprise to the last page. Much of this is achieved by exploiting the reader's prejudice about birth order & family relationships. Like mental judo, he probes for a weakness - and will throw you before you know it.
If it seems improbable - it is!! If you're able to laugh at your own prejudice, you'll like this ... and it's great for existing fans of teasy, clever Gale.
* OnlyMe reviews books from an Only-Child perspective.
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on 24 November 2013
I chose this with confidence because I love Patrick Gale's books, but I'm afraid I was disappointed in this one. It is well written, I have to say that, as all his books are but the story is just plain daft. The plot romped along from one daft coincidence to another. Lots of unbelievable deaths and unlikely characters, bringing it to a silly conclusion.

I have to say again that Patrick Gale really can write, but it was the story that lets this one down.
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on 20 September 2015
I love Patrick Gale's writing and this book certainly does not disappoint. His characters are so skilfully painted and human. You need to know what happens to them. This book approaches the human conditions of love, loss and redemption with sympathy, empathy and humour.
Like all his writing, I felt sad to have reached the end and having to leave the story behind..
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on 9 November 2015
As with all Patrick Gale's books there is tremendous characterisation, the reader almost feels that they are reading about people that they know, that they are involved in the events unfolding in the story. A really talented writer.
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on 7 January 2009
When I first started reading this book I found it inventive, exciting and a brilliant read, about two thirds through this book I began to think this is a bit unrealistic and did not flow with the very believable feel to the start of the book. Gales writing style is very good as per usual but the crazy amount of coincidences and totally unrealistic developements made me wonder if the same author finished this book. It turned from great literature to pure trash within a chapter. I would of given one star but the start of the book was so good that I can't believe it ended so badly. I am still waiting for the wonderful book that I believe this author can create as his books have moments of true brilliance!
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