It’s always very satisfying when you find a totally ‘new’ author you’d never even heard of before, read one of their books and love it, because it opens up a whole new world of books to grab from the library or buy. And at this point I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to my friend Fennie for telling me about Patrick Gale, because this is exactly what happened to me when I read this book.
To put it briefly, I couldn’t put the thing down. I read and read and read, stayed up far too late at night, and finished the whole thing in two days flat, which is quite incredible for me.
So, what makes it so gripping? In a word, characters. Nice, everyday, engaging, likeable, real characters, who jump off the page and take up residence in your living room, so vividly do they come across.
This doesn’t mean the book is light and fluffy. The sections dealing with the hero’s mother’s illness and gradual deterioration with Alzheimer’s are both true to life and harrowing, and there’s also a doomed love affair and family problems and rifts galore. Overall, though, the feel is surprisingly upbeat and the resolution for the hero is nicely satisfying.
The early part of the novel is set around Wandsworth prison and is apparently the closest thing to autobiography Gale has yet written. It also involves a character based on Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber, who influences future events in the hero’s life to a surprising degree.
I can’t praise the book or the writer enough and will definitely be on the lookout for more of his titles to devour.