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4.2 out of 5 stars
Rough Music
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2001
This is a beautifully crafted book in which two generational strands alternate, gradually interweave and finally converge. The characters are entirely credible and perceptively drawn, especially the mother and the main character as a young boy who evokes universal feelings of childhood. A book which is both touching and wise. Utterly absorbing.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2006
I loved this book, found it really hard to put down and have already checked out the author's other books on Amazon for future reading! It is written in an easy to read style but the characters are complex, interesting and sympathetic and left me wanting to know more about them.

It is mainly set around a holiday cottage in Cornwall over two family visits separated by 30 years, and the events of the past slowly unravel and merge with the characters' present day lives, as twists and details are revealed.

If you like strong characters and insights into human relationships this is a great book ... not a lot of action but very thoughtful and it left me with questions about things that were not quite resolved or clear.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2001
From the first few pages I was utterly captivated as the author drew me back into a long forgotten childhood. Gale's descriptive style of the Cornish sea and surroundings had me entranced and I was instantly intrigued by the obvious mysteries surrounding the characters. I especially enjoyed the way he used two storylines, one set in the past and one in the present, in each alternate chapter. This book was poignant and thought provoking - the description of Frances's descent into Alzheimers particularly moving. Absorbing, compelling and wonderful, I recommend this book to everyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2001
For most novels, to reveal in a review that the central character is sleeping with his brother-in-law would ruin the story. "Rough Music" is not most novels. The relationship between Will and Sandy is just a tiny part of a text that looks at the childhood and adulthood of one man, and how one influences the other, and Gale does this with incredible skill. The method of switching between two narratives, set 30 years apart, could have so easily been confusing and annoying, let flows brilliantly. The plot is complemented by well drawn characters (with the possible exception of the slightly two-dimensional Roly, and the reader will care about them all. Contrary to what some say, intelligent readers will not feel the need to be spoon-fed the information concerning the identity of Will/Julian - indeed, the novel's major success it that this is gradually revealed to the reader, who can make their own deductions, rather than spelt out in block letters. "Rough Music" is hugely readable, and if you're put off by the "gay literature" tag, don't be; there is so much more to this text than the protganist's sexuality.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2008
I read Rough Magic after having read Notes from an Exhibition. This book is written in a similar style to Iris Murdoch which I absolutely loved. The emotional perspective is something Patrick Gale not only understands but relishes in his writing. His characterisations are superb. As soon as I finished the book I felt at a loss and began to re-read it, just to absorb the beautiful text and clever twists. Highly recommended.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2003
I bought this book two years ago because it was about Cornwall, and a part of Cornwall I know. It was unputdownable! I wasn't expecting it to be about gay men, and mothers having affairs with brothers-in-law. I was intrigued with each step back and forth the author took me. Reliving the family holiday in the 60's with the journey taking all night because the M4/M5 hadn't been built! then the up to date holiday with the role reversal - son looking after parents. Quite fascinating and now I've bought the latest Patrick Gale to read on holiday.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2009
I have read four novels by Patrick Gale so far and, in my opinion, this is the best of the four (the others being 'Aerodynamics of Pork', 'Facts of Life' and 'Facing the Tank'). As others have noted, Gale's books are wonderfully easy to read whilst still being beautifully written - I would love to be able to write as seemingly effortlessly as that! Gale seems to like to write multi-strand, multi-character stories but this is probably the first time I have found each of the principals sympathetic and likeable in almost equal measure (almost because Frances and John engaged me marginally more than Will/Julian). I had no problem with the flipping back and forth between past and present in alternating chapters. Gale does this wonderfully clever thing where he eases the transition by giving each of the principals two chapters each in succession in each time period - this works very well. Its one of those books you keep thinking about for a while after you finish it.

As others have said, Frances' present day tale of her slip into early-onset Alzheimers is almost unbearably moving - those first and last chapters are a masterful stroke! On this, a third read, I was struck afresh at how wholly sympathetic a character John is and I liked him immensely. The early beach holiday is wonderfully nostalgic and brought back some memories of family camping holidays when I was a child (though thankfully not nearly so eventful). The book is not entirely without flaws - a couple of characters remain rather two dimensional (eg Roly and Bill) and indeed, I'm not sure that Roly was needed at all other than to provide a happy ending for Will; as in other Gale novels it seems remarkably easy to pick up handsome gay men in remote parts of the country! I was also rather unconvinced by Poppy's revelation towards the end about why she booked the cottage - it seemed out of character and I'm still not sure why she felt the need after so many years...

Still, on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be seeking out other novels by the same author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2002
It is fascinating how this book has provoked such different reactions.
I found it beautifully written and I cared about all of the characters - Frances both young and old was particularly sympathetic.
Very moving and nostalgic for children born in the sixties like me
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Rough Music is a tender and sensual novel depicting a marriage and family. It can only add to the growing reputation of Patrick Gale as one of the finest writers of modern literary fiction today.

The novel begins with Julian, a young boy, his love for Frances, his mother, and his rather formidable father, John, who is the Governor of a prison. Two time-scales, one set in the past, telling of a holiday in Cornwall, which took place in the mid-sixties and coincided with an incident which sounds very like the Great Train Robbery, and a leading villain, who, to all intents and purposes, though he is called George Farmer, is Ronnie Biggs. The second time-scale is set many years later, with Julian a grown-up, a lonely and rather repressed gay man, taking his mother (who is experiencing the onset of Alzheimer's disease) and father on holiday to the same cottage in Cornwall where they stayed all those years ago. The two stories are differentiated by chapter headings, and once this becomes established, they are easily distinguishable.

What is so very good about this novel is Gale's absolute assurance with characters. They are subtle and original, always engaging and consistent, and though there is plenty of conflict and quite a few shocks, the novel retains always a sense of lives lived. It is a measure of Gale's skill as a novelist that all three of the central characters (Julian, John and Frances) are vividly developed as separate human beings and each of their viewpoints is empathetically written into what is essentially quite a complex story. This is literary fiction at its very best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2001
Rough Music (a term, according to the book of an archaic form of 'outing') means much to someone whose adolescence was spent in the mid- to late 1960s, but is certainly not confined to then. It is a thoughtful, lyrical work, never mawkish or, as so often with gay literature, gloomy and pessimistic, even though one of the principal characters is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Contrasted with the principal character's readiness to embrace sexuality is the painfully familiar English (heterosexual) attitude to relationships even within marriage. Enjoyment, still less passion, just isn't right, and sex may just be permissible if a child is to be the result. The parents are accepting, but not entirely happy, and hope secretly that Will, the main character, will turn out 'normal' after all. Be prepared to spend time on this work - to rush it will be a loss. However, Patrick Gale could have been more ready to clarify that Will and Julian are the same person. The author may be forgiven this sin. The gradual awareness of sexual difference, with both problems and delights - all so very familiar - and without any meaningful help available - is deftly described. Don't rush this book, but do read it.
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