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The Facts of Life Paperback – 14 May 2009
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‘Deftly characterised, deeply involving and relevant. A memorable achievement’ The Times
‘It is impossible to put “The Facts of Life” down. A rural English blockbuster. It is beautifully done’ Daily Telegraph
‘Patrick Gale offers us so much more than facts in this extraordinary blockbuster of a novel. Its exploration of family ties and tyranny is encompassed within a deft narrative. Much like the late Ivy Compton-Burnett, Gale presents us with a family saga which both questions and defies present day morality. Always fluent, Gale manages to be both brutal and witty. His analysis of the family tree is rooted in compassion and insight and expounded resoundingly well’ Time Out
‘Gale’s best and most complex novel. Gale is both a shameless romantic and hip enough to get away with it’ New Statesman
About the Author
Patrick Gale was born in 1962 on the Isle of Wight. 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.
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The more innocent first part is easily reminiscent of wide ranging mid last century family novels such as The Cazalet Chronicles Collection - 4 Books (RRP £33.96). Edward/Eli Pepper/Pfefferberg, most elegantly bridges both sections. He arrives, in wretched health, at a TB hospital, to be cared for by Dr. Sally. They make friends and the book begins to take shape. As a couple they are at first bohemian then more middle class. Throughout the story, wonderful music ripples through, as an underscore. Edward earnestly composes and plays, struggles as an artist ahead of his time, to conform, earn and build a reputation. Sally settles, allowed the freedom she needs by a generous mentor, Dr. Pertwee, who gifts her The Roundel, an unusual and inspirational female entailed property, that becomes their characterful home.
This is a very good tale, a hugely involving read; all of which is suddenly turned around by a shocking event. Sally only appears twice in the second part, which takes a very different turn. Written at the height of HIV/AIDS panic Patrick Gale has sensitively and comprehensively written the ultimate account of what it meant to be alive at that time and feeling very frightened. Infection may not anyway come from lifestyle, it can be medically introduced, so all are at risk. The relationships we are introduced to in the second part are illuminating, understandable, sweet and sour, always fascinating. Ghastly guilt is surrounding and enveloping the characters, to a deeply damaging extent; so much goes on in their heads, it is touchingly real and human. Generations unfold, children grow up, parents age... Nobody gets the perfect life.
I loved it even more the second time around and felt drawn back to the revolution in attitudes towards race, sexual orientation, moral judgement that is one of the major changes of my life span. Patrick Gale is a towering talent, his ability to conjure up atmosphere, smells, looks and feelings is pin sharp, and always kind, it is a privilege to be educated and entertained by his measured, thoughtful writing.
He should be even more widely appreciated. He feels like a friend.
It is extremely well-written and fully deserves its place on my bookshelf where it will now be going back on the space it left waiting to be re-read again at some point in the future. It still remains my favourite of Patrick Gale's novels (with "Rough Music" coming in second) and it has made me look forward to reading the new one.
The book is so much better than the impression given by the bland blurb on the back of the book.
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