Notes From an Exhibition
15 September 2013 3 Comments
Author: Patrick Gale.
Summary: Gifted artist Rachel Kelly is a whirlwind of creative highs and anguished, crippling lows. She’s also something of an enigma to her husband and four children. So when she is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving behind some extraordinary new paintings, there’s a painful need for answers. Her Quaker husband appeals for information on the internet. The fragments of a shattered life slowly come to light, and it becomes clear that bohemian Rachel has left her children not only a gift for art – but also her haunting demons.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5
Review: I can’t say enough good things about this book. In fact i only have good things to say. Which might seem odd, given the three stars i’ve given it, but i’ll get to that.
The story revolves around a family; Rachel, Antony and their children. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view and veers backwards and forwards in time to explore each characters’ childhood and adult lives.
It’s a quiet book. There are no huge revelations or action-packed scenes. It reveals its secrets slowly, over the course of the entire book, making each chapter a short story of its own that overlaps and weaves with the others.
I read it as much more of a character study than simply a narrative, and enjoyed it this way. I got to know these characters, their history, and explore how they each dealt with family, mental illness and death. No character was perfect, but neither was anyone entirely flawed. Seeing the same things from several points of view, and at different stages of the non-linear timeline gives the reader an omniscient perspective of events. It makes it hard to make any judgements on the characters involved and i finished the book with a sense that in spite of people’s intentions, life is random, unpredictable and completely out of our control.
The writing is excellent. Simple, but powerful. Gale deals with serious topics in a way which seems to easily convey so much meaning and depth.
As much as i can praise this books, as very well-written as it was… it’s just not my thing. I enjoyed it immensely for all of the above reasons, but it is not the kind of book i would usually read. I would not be able to read books like this too often; they would eventually bore me, i think. I need a little excitement, a little more humour and less normality. But as a one-off, i am very pleased i picked up this book.