Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

Our February book group selection was a fabulous choice. Simply put, I couldn't put this book down.

Each chapter opens with an exhibition note of a fictional piece of art or life momento by Rachel Kelly. Each note is written as if it hangs next to the piece in a gallery exhibition of a retrospective of the artist's life's work complete with time frame, materials used and from whose collection the painting is or what it meant to her during her life.

Rachel marries Antony when he whisks her away from Oxford University upon learning that she is pregnant by one of the professors after one of her many suicide attempts. Rachel suffers from bipolar disorder and Antony gives up his fledgling academic career to rescue her. He takes her to his families home in Cornwall to live amongst his austere Quaker beliefs.

This book provides an insight into mental illness and the havoc it deals to the sufferers family. Mr Gale does not write sentimentally but instead explores the life of the artist, Rachel, and alternates each chapter with a perspective from a different family member developing each character in depth. The reader understands the character's life choices and gains a sympathy for each of them. Each characters is developed so beautifully. The course of their lives is revealed slowly urging the reader on.

The weaving of the Quaker traditions into the story is sublime. It adds depth to the story and provides a sturdy framework against the madness.

My family has taken many holidays down in Cornwall and we love the place. Sennen Cove is one of my favourite beaches in the whole entire world and when it was mentioned in the book I nearly jumped up and down. I want to read everything Mr Gale has written previously and highly recommend this book.

Book Group Note: Just about everyone loved the book. There was a lengthy discussion about the relationship between the creative nature of an artist and the selfishness of the individual and how this impacted the relationship of Rachel with her children.


Janell said...

This sounds like a good one. I'll be looking for it next trip to the Library.
Would you mind including the number of pages of a book in your book reveiws?

LaDawn said...

Will certainly try to include page numbers in future reviews!