A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale

This story opens with impact. Lenny Barnes, paralysed from a rugby accident commits suicide in the front of the local parish priest, Barnaby Jones.

The ripple effect this has, reverberates throughout the book. But what is unique is the fact that, we are taken away from this story line and immediately thrust into that of Barnaby, his wife Dorothy, their children, Nuala and Modest.

What makes this book unique is we see each of these characters at different stages in their lives, each chapter is focusing on one character at pivotal points. They are not in any particular order more a patchwork of forming a story for the reader. I would be intrigued to learn how the author wrote this story.

With each chapter, we learn more about these characters, their background, their family their beliefs and their actions are all built upon layer upon layer. Underlying all of this is the impact of the suicide at the beginning it is still uppermost in your mind when you carry on reading.

Among these characters is the setting which this author does very well. Cornwall seems to come across as a place where dark secrets are held and how the environment either hinders or helps the decisions that these characters make. I was interested in the sections which featured Modest Carlsson in Portsmouth. Coming from that area, it was described with such clarity I knew exactly the roads, the landmarks and the church. When the story and Modest moves into Cornwall, I knew I was getting an exact description and not some glossed over ideal of what the landscape was like. This is the beauty of Patrick Gale’s writing.

Gale’s books tackle different and difficult issues that are perhaps not seen very often in mainstream fiction. This book was no different, do not be put off by the thought of a possible assisted suicide. This book is much more about actions and beliefs of people, religious or agnostic and the effect they have on all those close.

A book which has a tone which resonates quietly and creeps up on you when you are least expecting it to. A thoughtful read and not one to be rushed through to reach the next part.

I had forgotten how much I have enjoyed Patrick Gale’s writing. I have his new novel A Place Called Winter (release date 26 Mar 2015) waiting to be read and I can see I might have to indulge in the coming days. 

I have created a Patrick Gale ‘Author’s List of Works’ at the top of the page if you want to see other books by this author. 



3 thoughts on “A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale

  1. I read this very recently and so agree with your review…the book gathered momentum slowly but surely…it stays with one long after

  2. I borrowed this from the library yesterday before I had seen your review because, like you, I thought it was time I read another Patrick Gale so I was thrilled to read what you have to say about it. Thanks.

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