I count Patrick Gale as one of my favourite authors, and I have read a lot of his books – although I have taken an unintentional break in recent years! I decided it was high time I re-read one and, at random, I chose this one.
The book is about a young boy growing up in a house next door to Wandsworth Prison, where his father is the prison governor. One summer he heads to Cornwall for a family holiday. Running alongside this story, it is about 30 years in the future and Will and his parents head to Cornwall to the same cottage. The chapters alternate between the past and present throughout the book. As the book progresses, we find out more about the family both past and present, and the secrets that have shaped their lives.
As always with Gale, the strength lies in his characters. He manages to convey different characters with ease, whether it is a gay man, a young boy or a lady with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The book isn’t action packed – it is sometimes quite subtle, and we have to piece together the story as we go along – working out what happened all those years ago and how that has impacted on the family in the present day.
Overall I did really enjoy this book, although some of the events at the end were a bit melodramatic. Also the prison sub-plot didn’t add much to the story, although you find out at the end that some of this reflected Gale’s own childhood experience.
The main thing affect this book has had on me is to make me want to read more by Gale! I’ll definitely revisit a few of his novels, and I’ve been pleased to hear he has another out later this year.