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Tree Surgery for Beginners Paperback – 14 May 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial (14 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007307691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007307692
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

‘In this very fine novel Patrick Gale proves, yet again, that he is both an exceptionally acute observer of human nature and a storyteller of the first order.’ Barbara Gowdy

‘The book is one of his best: a fluently constructed narrative underpinned by excellent characterisation. Running through it all is the theme of redemption; and the hero's journey from despair to hope makes a stirring odyssey for the reader.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Gale’s energetic novel is a carnival of events in which credible characters find themselves in incredible situations.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Gale is at his most insightful in his descriptions of character, both of individuals and of the Frost family as a whole. Tree Surgery for Beginners’ is a comic thriller in which “family tree” takes on new meanings.’ Observer

‘This is vintage Patrick Gale – witty, funny, poignant, and utterly absorbing.’ Patricia Duncker

From the Back Cover

FAMILIES, LIKE PLANTS, GROW MOST STRONGLY WHERE YOU CUT THEM

As befits the hero of a modern fairy tale, Lawrence Frost has neither father nor siblings, and fits so awkwardly into his worldly mother’s life, he might have dropped from the sky. A true misfit, he grows up happier communing with nature than with people. Whilst he is straightforward, honest and a doting dad, he can be a difficult taciturn husband – but he’s the last person one would suspect of being a killer… Then he wakes in the woods one morning to find himself branded a wife-beater and under investigation for murder. Suddenly, his small world falls apart as he loses wife, daughter, liberty, livelihood and, almost, his mind.

In late Shakespeare he would be banished or shipwrecked. This being mid period Gale, he is sent on the holiday from hell. Bereft and confused, he undergoes a journey of penance and self discovery across the Atlantic to the Caribbean where a passionate liaison with a living legend throws his life into further chaos. Meanwhile the exasperated women in his life – mother, wife and enigmatic mistress – are forced to accept that their lives must feel the gardener’s blade if they are to bloom afresh. Seeking sanctuary at an alternative therapy centre among the giant redwoods of northern California, Lawrence finally stumbles on a possibility of happiness, but not before chance encounters and long hidden secrets have conspired to unearth the deeply buried roots of his misfortune.

With a bold mix of tragicomedy, harsh truth and sublime fantasy, Patrick Gale has created a 'Winter’s Tale' for the millennium – a vivid and compelling portrait of a man at odds with himself and an extended family of friends and lovers trying to take its proper shape.

“Gale is an elegant and witty writer with an engagingly bizarre imagination.”
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

“Gale’s blend of artifice and realism is not quite like anybody else’s.”
OBSERVER

“Gale is a master of character, and he slips under the skins of his women protagonists with such wit that it’s often hard to believe he’s a man.”
ELLE

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was a bit disappointed by this novel. It had flashes of the Patrick Gale I have loved in other books (Notes from an Exhibition, etc) but this felt like an early work. The plot relied heavily on coincidences, and some substantial developments, not to say shocking revelations, were treated too lightly and skimmed over. Overall it felt unbalanced and contrived, and made me think to myself 'oh surely not!' a bit too often as my suspension of disbelief was stretched to its limits. At his best Patrick Gales is truly an 'anatomist of the human heart' as one reviewer has described him, but this novel was only patchily brilliant, and left me feeling I had been served something not quite of the telling truth and emotional weight that I have come to expect from Gale.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nothing to do with tree surgery but he saw the funny side. Nearly chopped two fingers off with a chainsaw you see. 😄
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Patrick Gale writes superb characters with whom you empathise and enjoy sharing their journey, both emotional and social . Or at least he does now. Back when he was writing Tree Surgery he seemed not to be able to find a single character's trajectory and stick to it. Lawrence is a shadow as a character and I found him hard to understand and even harder to emphasise with. He travels from rural UK via a ridiculous Caribbean Cruise with man eating tigers and a singer of questionable moral purpose to the USA. Why? No idea. Was it entertaining? Mildly.
The other characters are really too stereotypical - the hurt wife, the effete uncle, the matching American cruisers, the best mate and the ludicrous Christian neighbour. It is only that Gale is such a good writer that this does not become truly terrible. If you think of it as early writing and forgive him (especially as later goes on to write such wonderful books) and maybe think of this as his attempt at something multi layered aiming for a Barbara Trapido type of family saga, then you might enjoy it. But really there are many many better books out there and quite a few by Gale himself. Odd and perhaps for completists only.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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