Patrick Gale is the author of seventeen novels, the most recent of which, Mother’s Boy, is based on the early life of Charles Causley. He also writes scripts, notably the International Emmy-winning Man in an Orange Shirt which is being adapted into a musical. His novels, A Place Called Winter and Take Nothing With You, are being adapted for screen and stage respectively. Patrick was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2021. He is the artistic director of the North Cornwall Book Festival, patron of Penzance LitFest and the Charles Causley Trust, and a founder director of the arts charity Endelienta. He lives with his husband on a farm at Land’s End.
Patrick’s recommendation is also featured in this month’s Finding a Good Read, in the national newspaper for prisoners, Inside Time. Finding a Good Read is a monthly column written by Prison Reading Groups (PRG), to help readers with remote orders. We adapt it as a handout that can be included with library deliveries or made available on the wings.
Whether you decide this is a novel or a collection of stories is up to you to decide. I think it’s a novel, in that the linking theme is so powerfully rendered. In seven successive narratives, playwright and novelist Bartlett explores the theme of home and domesticity and what those things have meant to gay people – mainly men, it must be said – between the Victorian era and the present. He evokes the powerful erotic charge of when someone first invites someone else into their private space. Most people’s homes are places of safety but how much more true must that be of people whose very right to exist, let alone love, is denied by their neighbours? When your very self is a secret, you can only truly be yourself when you get home and lock the front door behind you. It’s hard to read this book and not find yourself thinking about the other lives lived in your house before you lived in it, or the hidden lives of the man across the landing from you or in the flat across the way. Bartlett has always been a compelling storyteller, fearless of breaking the rules and, from his early novel Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall to his later Skin Lane and Mr Clive and Mr Page, he has always been interested in privacy and private rituals and enjoyed giving his readers the distinct sense they are eavesdropping on something weird and fascinating they perhaps shouldn’t be hearing. I never tire of recommending his work because I feel it isn’t cherished nearly enough.
Thank you, Patrick, for choosing this book!
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Photo Credit: Jillian Edelstein