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Facing the Tank Paperback – 5 Aug 2002
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‘Gale is intoxicated with words and feeds upon them with a kind of manic relish…The sheer funniness of “Facing the Tank” made me laugh out loud. Its optimism delighted me.’ Sunday Times
‘Gale speedily unleashes his merrily black mischief. The uncovering of the sadness behind the doilies and twinsets is in the best tradition of black humour.’ Observer
‘A commendably intelligent, entertaining and moving novel.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Original and amusing. An elegant, witty writer with an engagingly bizarre imagination. Patrick Gale writes with great zest. I kept on reading because I was perpetually astonished to find what Mr Gale had thought up next.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘The first thing that catches the attention about Patrick Gale is a sardonic eye, an engagingly leery way of looking at life, or the half-life he has chosen as his base in “Facing the Tank”. It’s as though “Cold Comfort Farm” had called in the interior decorators.’ Guardian
From the Back Cover
When Evan J. Kirby, an eminent American expert on Heaven and Hell, arrives in Barrowcester to do some research, he finds the community in a less than blissful state. There is the bishop sharing his doubts with the confirmation class, while his mother feeds marijuana cookies to Evan’s landlady to unleash her psychic powers. Then there is Emma lurking in her father’s study waiting for love. Dawn sitting naked in a deckchair at midnight waiting for the Devil, and Madeleine seeking refuge from a cardinally inclined Cardinal. When Evan delves into the true origins of the local saint, a macabre and romantic sequence of events begins to unfold.See all Product description
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First twist, the people that have AIDS are not the gay interior design couple - Fergus' partner died of cancer even though Fergus tried shocking the relatives with an alternative `truth'. The people who recklessly disregard `safe' sex are Tobit the celibate `ex-gay' who has got the `booby prize' from a one night stand and his new highly sexed female lover Gloire who is a medical student who ought to know better than say ridiculous things like `the lady does not like latex'.
Second twist, the location is not urban but a place combining Trollope's Barchester and Gale's public school - everything happens around the Cathedral close.
Third twist, miracles really do happen (much to the shock of the sceptical bishop); the local saint really did have wings, and has come back to collect a few souls and has asked for a room at the local B&B; the cleaning lady is a witch and she is summoning her child from the grave. None of the worst and most startling things that happen require explanation or resolution. They are simply piled on to a plot full of events in a world of fantastical happenings and the arrival of the Angel/ blond Norse patron saint against a backdrop of evensong, arcane school rules, tourists, a gift shop, the cathedral's failing foundations and a nursing home.
The novel initially claims to be about two people - Evan and his research, and Madeleine who has accidentally seduced a Cardinal and become pregnant and who arrives fleeing from the paparazzi. But in the end these two characters almost seem like a picture frame for a wide canvas where witches and devils have taken over the Cathedral rebuilding works and mayhem is working its way through small streets.
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