Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 August 2018 from Tinder Press
1970s Weston-Super-Mare and ten-year-old oddball Eustace, an only child, has life transformed by his mother’s quixotic decision to sign him up for cello lessons. Music-making brings release for a boy who is discovering he is an emotional volcano. He laps up lessons from his young teacher, not noticing how her brand of glamour is casting a damaging spell over his frustrated and controlling mother.
When he is enrolled in holiday courses in the Scottish borders, lessons in love, rejection and humility are added to daily practice.
Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale’s new novel explores a collision between childish hero worship and extremely messy adult love lives.
I am indebted to Georgina Moore for my copy of this fabulous novel. Thank you.
I enjoy the vast majority of books that I read and seldom think a book is not worthy of review. But occasionally a book will land on my desk and make such an impact that I worry about how to do it justice.
That book is Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing With You. This is prose that shines with love, with kindness, with insight and tells a story without hesitation, aiming, like the proverbial arrow, straight for the heart.
Gale is an author whose books immediately jump into the must read category and Take Nothing With You is no exception.
This is lyrical, exquisite prose with a musical accompaniment and the words dance in your head as the music makes you giddy with delight.
From the first line, the reader is utterly hooked: “At an age when he was reassured that life was unlikely to surprise him any further, Eustace found, in rapid succession, that he was quite possibly dying and that he was falling in love for the third time.”
Eustace has cancer and from his radiation chamber where he sits isolated waiting for his dose of therapy he reflects on his past and present to the accompaniment of his friend Naomi’s cello music.
A beautiful, elegantly written, coming of age story, Eustace recalls his upbringing in Weston-Super –Mare; his inspirational cello lesson from the elegant Carla Gold in Bristol’s Clifton and thinks back to his schooldays.
Brought up in an old people’s home in Weston, owned and run by his parents, Eustace is a reserved boy whose love of music becomes all-consuming and in harmony with his sexual journey of self -discovery. Eustace has a not entirely conventional upbringing, tinged with disappointment and lost opportunities, yet he emerges stronger from these events. Even the betrayals he suffers are not cause for rancour, but rather for understanding.
Though his life has some remarkable moments and some quite astonishing highs and lows, yet we have no sense of melodrama as Eustace thinks back to his youth, his few close friends and some of the colourful characters he has met as he came into his own.
It is not all backward looking, though. As presaged by the opening line, there is the possibility of love and a future for Eustace and you find yourself wanting that for him very much indeed.
Take Nothing With You, it is called, but this book has captured and taken away a piece of my heart.
Verdict: Beautifully evocative, wonderfully told, this is a real keeper.
About Patrick Gale
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. He’s a passionate gardener, cook, and cellist and chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival each October. His sixteen novels include the Costa-shortlisted A Place Called Winter, A Perfectly Good Man and Notes From an Exhibition – both of which were Richard and Judy Bookclub selections – The Whole Day Through and Rough Music. His latest, Take Nothing With You is a tale of teenage obsession, sexuality, betrayal and music-making.
You can find out more on his website www.galewarning.org.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @PNovelistGale