Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale @PNovelistGale @TinderPress @PublicityBooks

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Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale  Tinder Press August 21st 2018

Leaving your childhood behind is easier said than done…

Take Nothing With You is a sad-funny comedy of resilience and survival. Fifty-something Eustace, a gay Londoner of leisure, realises in the same week that he has fallen hopelessly in love with a man he has yet to meet in the flesh, and that he has cancer of the thyroid. While being given radioactive iodine therapy, which involves spending a little over 24 hours in a lead-lined hospital suite wearing only disposable clothes and with no possessions he doesn’t mind leaving behind, he listens to hour on hour of cello music recorded for him by his best mate, Naomi. This sets his memories circling back to the 1970s and his eccentric boyhood and adolescence in his parents’ old people’s home in Weston-Super-Mare, and how his life was transfigured and his family’s stability shattered, by the decision to attend a recital by the glamorous cellist, Carla Gold.

My Review

A new novel by Patrick Gale is, in my case, a moment to celebrate, to look forward to turning the pages on what you know will be a novel that will take you away and immerse you in the wonderful world of Gale’s characters.

Take Nothing With You was no exception and from the first page to the last i could not help but become embroiled in the life of Eustace, a man of 52 when we first met him, alone, and about to embark on a battle with the dreaded cancer. When he is locked in a room for twenty four hours Eustace, took me back to 1970’s Weston Super Mare and his childhood, one that you knew was perhaps not the happiest.

This is when Gale’s characterisation excelled, depicting a young lost boy, unsure of who he was, drifting towards anonymity, with few friends, and parents that were perhaps slightly self absorbed in their own lives to take much notice of Eustace. When he began cello lessons, Gale expertly used the music, and the characters he met to show us a different Eustace, a Eustace who discovered a passion, something that he was actually very good at and a means to unlock the real him.

I know little or nothing about the cello, or musical annotation and even though Take Nothing with You was littered with musical terms and practices it had a definite place within the novel. For me it added to the intensity I felt permeated the pages, to the passion and want of knowledge, and the escape it provided Eustace from all the other troubles that plagued his life. At times it was achingly emotive and poignant and it felt deeply personal, as though Gale himself was reliving his own childhood, his own struggles with life and ultimately his sexuality. There is one particular train of events towards the end of the novel that seemed to come out of the blue, that shocked me, that made me love Eustace even more, that proved what a skilled and masterful storyteller Gale is.

It wasn’t just the poignancy of Eustace’s  character that stood out, but the myriad of wonderful imagery Gale conjured up. There was Eustace’s house full of the old and infirm, the smells that came with it almost real, Vernon’s ordered house and the homeliness of Louis and Ebrahim’s Bristol abode.

Other characters demanded your attention, none more so than his mother, so deeply unhappy, and hugely self absorbed that I found it difficult to like her, to know if deep down she loved her son.

I felt that Cara, Eustace’s cello teacher poured more love into him than his mother, and willed her young pupil to do the best that he could, always believing in him where others did not.

Other characters played their part, and events formed Eustace into the man we discover in the present.

In a narrative that was both lyrical and compelling Gale took us on a journey, a journey of a young man’s self discovery. He tugged at my heartstrings with his eloquence and poignancy, and left me bereft that I had to leave Eustace’s behind.

I now face the long wait for Gale’s next novel and will do so with great impatience!

I would like to thank Georgina Moore at Tinder Press for a copy of Take Nothing With You to read and review.

About the author

Patrick was born on 31 January 1962 on the Isle of Wight, where his father was prison governor at Camp Hill, as his grandfather had been at nearby Parkhurst. He was the youngest of four – one sister, two brothers, spread over ten years. The family moved to London, where his father ran Wandsworth Prison, then to Winchester. At eight Patrick began boarding as a Winchester College Quirister at the cathedral choir school, Pilgrim’s. At thirteen he went on to Winchester College. He finished his formal education with an English degree from New College, Oxford in 1983.

He has never had a grown-up job. For three years he lived at a succession of addresses, from a Notting Hill bedsit to a crumbling French chateau. While working on his first novels he eked out his slender income with odd jobs; as a typist, a singing waiter, a designer’s secretary, a ghost-writer for an encyclopedia of the musical and, increasingly, as a book reviewer.

His first two novels, The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease were published by Abacus on the same day in June 1986. The following year he moved to Camelford near the north coast of Cornwall and began a love affair with the county that has fed his work ever since.

He now lives in the far west, on a farm near Land’s End with his husband, Aidan Hicks. There they raise beef cattle and grow barley. Patrick is obsessed with the garden they have created in what must be one of England’s windiest sites and which includes England’s westernmost walled rose garden, and he deeply resents the time his writing makes him spend away from working in it. As well as gardening, he plays both the modern and baroque cello. He chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival, patron of Penzance LitFest and a director of both Endelienta and the Charles Causley Trust. His chief extravagance in life is opera tickets.

To discover more about Patrick Gale and his novels, check out his website https://galewarning.org/ or follow him on Twitter @PNovelistGale

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