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Notes From An Exhibition Paperback – 7 Jan 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 256 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; paperback / softback edition (7 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1407424858
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407424859
  • ASIN: 0007254660
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Poised and pitch-perfect throughout, this is an engrossing portrait of a troubled and remarkable character. A fine writer at the top of his game’ Mail on Sunday

‘This is an uplifting, immensely empathetic novel, and Gale's prose, as ever is as clear and bright as the Cornish light' Guardian

'It has the kind of quietly radiant intelligence, craft and integrity that bypasses superficial questions of originality. A novel with a variety and freshness that is all the more powerful and surprising for being discovering in such a circumscribed and very English milieu' Adam Lively, Sunday Times

'Skilfully constructed as a mosaic of different viewpoints that shift back and forwards in time. A warm, well-written novel about creativity and the perils of living with the creative spirit' Times Literary Supplement

'By the end I had laughed and cried and put all his other books on my wish list. This is dense, thought-provoking, sensitive, satisfying, humorous, humane – a real treat' Toby Clements, Telegraph

'Beautifully written, slowly unravelling tale…Patrick Gale's serene and carefully crafted prose conveys a profound understanding of the workings of human relationships and the torment that mental illness causes its sufferers and also those around them' Ross Gilfillan, Daily Mail

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 A Perfectly Good Man and the Richard & Judy bestseller Notes from an Exhibition.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Patrick Gale's Notes from an Exhibition revolves around the life of Rachel, an artist whose life has been shaped by bouts of manic depression, and her family, including her husband, Anthony, who is a Quaker, and their four children. The novel has much to commend it: an accutely sensitive account of the pain caused by bipolar disorder, both to sufferers and to their families, it also manages to retain a sense of warmth and humanity that is both redemptive and tragic. Rather than use a linear structure, the author skips between events in the protagonists' lives, deftly inter-weaving poignant moments of crisis and self-discovery, building up to an ending that finds illumination in great loss and a new sense of perspective. Most striking for me was the portrayal of Quakers in the book, which is neither sentimental nor superficially dismissive. As a Quaker myself, I was struck by how believable the characters were, how their encounters with Quakerism echoed my own frustrations, curiosities and sense of inspiration that has been awakened by that tradition. Gale manages to capture the ways in which Quakers, in their dogged, awkward, utterly serene down-to-earthness, seek out the spark of humanity in all, and in so doing, highlight how what some would call the divine is often found in that which is most human. Humanity lies at the heart of Gale's book: as a theme to be explored, an experience to be celebrated, and a sense of life in which pain and joy are almost inseparable, perhaps even co-dependent. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading, and anyone who likes people.
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Format: Hardcover
As with a number of reviewers, what really struck me about this book was its lightness of touch. It took a little while for it to sink in just how much observation and subtlety it carries. I yearn for novels to do this. His prose is clear and without fuss, the characters are observed gently and meticulously, and the plot evolves in much the stealthy and surreptitious way that happens - well, in real life. I enjoyed the first few chapters, but after about a quarter of the book I really sat up and took notice that I was reading a splendid, thoroughly mature piece of work. I would recommend this whole-heartedly to anyone who likes fiction to be about real life, rather than simply an escape from it.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first Patrick Gale novel I have read. I rather think it won't be the last. I was attracted by the subject matter. The link between creativity and mental health is fascinating and, given such a vast topic I think this book works brilliantly. It brings living with a mental health disorder into everyday terms and made it real; accessible without being patronising or facile. In terms of the writing quality, I was very impressed with the apparent ease with which Gale moves between perspectives; each character has a very distinctive voice of their own that is reflected in the narrative and adds to the absorbing quality of the book. By the end some gaps have been filled but there's no sense of every loose end being tied up - the realism doesn't let up for an instant. I feel I want more but know that "more" would be too much. The final scene, which should be harrowing, is sublimely beautiful.
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By pjr VINE VOICE on 19 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have, over the years, read a considerable number of Patrick Gale's books and find them enjoyable. Occasionally they rise above this to elevate themselves to a level where I would happily recommend them to others. "Rough Music", his prior novel to this seemed to indicate that perhaps he was about to elevate himself to a place alongside some of Britain's more seriously considered writers. "Notes From An Exhibition" should have been the proof and, whilst it is a thouroughly enjoyable book, it does fall a little short.

Structuring itself around the themes of art, death, and bipolarity the subject matter gives the impression of the serious minded. The handling of the link between central character Rachael Kelly's bipolarity and her creativity is well handled and insightful. Here the book rises to its challenge with aplomb. One clever trick is that the central character is really only fully appreciated from the perspectives of the other characters in the book. This is due, in part I suspect, to her bipolar disorder but it is a very clever conceit indeed.

Gale writes engagingly throughout and I did find the book both easy to read and difficult to put down. You are genuinely engaged by some of the characters in this book. Apart from Rachael, the children Hedley and Morwenna are well rounded, as is her husband Anthony. The trouble is the book devotes time to about 3 more characters and weaves in little subplots.

It's here where the book both falls down and looses its sense of purpose. There is simply too much going on and too many people to spread the story around. The inclusion of Petroc is useful and although his character is not as fully fledged as some his place in the plot is quite important.
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By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover
When Rachel Kelly dies the emotions felt by her family veer from sadness to relief. A talented artist, she had always been a powerful influence on her children who grew up in awe and fear of her mood swings and erratic behavior due to her mental problems. The book moves from present day Cornwall to Toronto in the 1960s and the story of each member of the family is gradually allowed to unfold, their struggles and their successes, their longings and their fears. The chapters open with a different "note from an exhibition" - each one intriguing and fascinating in its own way.

Rachel's background is a mystery - she refuses to talk about where she comes from apart from vaguely alluding to Canada. After her death her husband Antony, encouraged by her oldest son, begins to seek out her origins.

The Quaker faith of Antony gives the book a calm still heart which contrasts well with the difficulties weathered by the family.

Above all it is an optimistic book that shows that although the family has had to endure the pain and misery of living with mental illness they can nonetheless find strength and happiness through the love and memories that they all share.

I struggled towards the end of the book between wanting to know Rachel's story but not wanting the book to end! It is the first Patrick Gale book I have read - but I've already started looking out for his other work.
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