When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children are left to unravel a legacy of secrets and emotional damage.
©2007 Patrick Gale
A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.
I bought this book because it is narrated by Stephen Pacey, and because I like 'relationship' books. The idea for the structure is interesting - that each episode is linked to a picture from the posthumous exhibition of Rachel Kelly's work - but in the end it's unsatisfyingly 'clever' and confuses more than it explains, because of the way it jumps around in time. The only real problem with an audio book, especially if you are listening while on the drive home from work, is that you can't flick back to previous chapters to find the thread of a character's story, so just have to press on and hope things will be explained by the end. And that is the main fault with this book. It just stops, and misses out the most important scene in the lives of all the characters. I could see it coming, in tantalising (but self-conscious) snippets, but it would seem the last picture in the exhibition is missing.
Beautifully read by Stephen Pacey but I don't think I'll bother with any more Patrick Gale.
I don't often give books 5 stars, but this one really deserved it. An intriguing and well-constructed plot, believable and interesting characters, fine, subtle writing without any pretentiousness - what more could you want? It was beautifully-read, too. I was really sorry when it came to an end - but hurrah! The ending was satisfying, and not cliched or predictable.
I must applaud the narrator for his apt putting on of accents.
The book is a brilliant portrait of a quite unusual family and mother. Bipolar artist Rachel Kelly marries Quaker Anthony and moves to Penzanze with him.
Chapter headings form an introduction to each chapter, each giving a descrition of an item from an exhibition about the artist. It took me a while to understand the symbolism and metaphore of an exhibition of one life - what the spectator sees and what they cannot see, what is shown, told and implied. Phases of an artists creation, the juxtapose of biological and artistic creation and much more.
A very clever and accomplished novel that deserved all the praise it got.
On a different level, though. the novel is entertaining as it provides quirky and unusual characters, situations and storylines. Much insight into well developed characters is given.
The characters all have something, I could identify with many of them and found myself involved and invested very much.
The jumps in time and perspectives occasionally bothered me as I was taken out of one life that I enjoyed listening to, and was thrown somewhere else.
But like an exhibition, all the exhibits and pieces can come together in the end and make perfect sense.
Very enjoyable and elegant. The prose is beautiful.
I enjoyed the way all the characters in this novel were complex in a very credible way. I think I need to listen to it again to fully make sense of the various revelations made through shifts in time throughout the book, but I liked this puzzle-like construction. This is a moving story about strong family ties, love despite all, what people do to escape their past and what they do to each other - both good and bad.
Love the luxury of listening to books while I get on with life in France - feeding chickens, geese and my pug Hattie with headphones on. 😉
The story though fairly complicated was captivating. The narrator made the story come alive and reflected the characters perfectly. Great!
Odd reason to buy it, but I saw Patrick Gale on University Challenge and decided that he seemed interesting, so I bought this book. Am I glad that I did! It is beautifully written and I is well read. I couldn't stop listening. The changes from present to past and back again are skilfully managed, the characters are well drawn and utterly believable.
I rushed to order another Patrick Gale, bought 'A Perfectly Good Man' and was thrilled when a character from 'Notes on an Exhibition' recurred - I had been wondering what had happened to her!
Do read/listen Patrick Gale, you wont be disappointed.
One of the best audiobooks I have listened to. Just loved it and Steven Pacey's reading made it all the more enjoyable. Highly recommended. Please can we have some more of Patrick Gale's books ready by Steven Pacey. Thank you - just wonderful.
Another brilliant book from Patrick Gale. All the elements we have come to expect - fantastic characterisation, insightful study of family dynamics, several points of view, twists and turns along the way. The idea of beginning each chapter with a note from an exhibition seems like the kind of thing I wouldn't like, but it was great actually. Well worth a credit.
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