Tuesday, 4 December 2007


AUTHOR: Patrick Gale


DATE READ: November 2007

NOTES: When Rachel Kelly dies the emotions felt by her family veer from sadness to relief. A talented artist, she had always been a powerful influence on her children who grew up in awe and fear of her mood swings and erratic behavior due to her mental problems. The book moves from present day Cornwall to Toronto in the 1960s and the story of each member of the family is gradually allowed to unfold, their struggles and their successes, their longings and their fears. The chapters open with a different “note from an exhibition” – each one intriguing and fascinating in its own way.

Rachel’s background is a mystery – she refuses to talk about where she comes from apart from vaguely alluding to Canada. After her death her husband Antony, encouraged by her oldest son, begins to seek out her origins.

The Quaker faith of Antony gives the book a calm still heart which contrasts well with the difficulties weathered by the family.

Above all it is an optimistic book that shows that although the family has had to endure the pain and misery of living with mental illness they can nonetheless find strength and happiness through the love and memories that they all share.

I struggled towards the end of the book between wanting to know Rachel’s story but not wanting the book to end! It is the first Patrick Gale book I have read – but I’ve already started looking out for his other work.

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