Join Patrick Gale to talk about our June Book of the Month, A PERFECTLY GOOD MAN, TONIGHT, Weds 27 June 9-10pm

(147 Posts)

Patrick Gale is fast becoming a National Treasure. Our June choice, A PERFECTLY GOOD MAN, is his seventeenth book. That alone deserves some kind of gong from the Queen. But it is also his particular style of quiet, intelligent, clear and humorous writing that makes him a very British talent. You always feel as if you know his characters, that they were in your local Post Office just this morning, and you recognize their human frailty and tangled emotions.

Barnaby Johnson, the hero of this month's book, is a priest in a small West Cornwall parish. Each chapter is a snapshot of different people in the parish, at different times of their life, all of whom are connected to Barnaby. Slowly and deliciously, the story unfolds like backwards origami, with secrets and triumphs and betrayals opening out in sequence.

A novel that makes you reflect on many issues - faith, marriage, adoption, mental illness - but most of all, shows you humanity in all its complex, crazy mixed-up wonderfulness.

The book of the month page with more detail about A PERFECTLY GOOD MAN and our giveaway of 50 free copies of Patrick's book will go live tomorrow (Thursday 31 May) at 10am. We'll close the giveaway after 24 hours and pick 50 names randomly, and we'll email you to let you know if your name was chosen within 48 hours.

And if you're not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can get your Kindle edition or your paperback here

We are delighted that Patrick will be joining us to chat about A PERFECTLY GOOD MAN, his writing life and all his previous books, on Wednesday 27 June, 9-10pm. We'll be discussing the book throughout the month so don't forget to put your thoughts and questions up here before the chat.

Hope you can join us...

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-May-12 10:04:38

This month's book club giveaway is now live. We'll keep the giveaway open for 24 hours (ie until 10am tomorrow) and then choose 50 names randomly. Good luck. It's a great read.

And if you're lucky and get a copy, please do come and share your thoughts on this thread and/or post a question for Patrick. If you're unlucky, we hope you'll still read it and join this month's book club discussion.

Hullygully Thu 31-May-12 10:46:31

Oi, what's this random lark?

I set my alarm to get in early that is a lie

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-May-12 11:53:39

Hullygully

Oi, what's this random lark?

I set my alarm to get in early --that is a lie--

We're responding to popular demand on the book giveaways topic (and we've got to be consistent). We're going to be putting up some giveaway guidelines asap, so everyone knows how they work.

Hullygully Thu 31-May-12 12:10:32

hassen fassen fass <channels Muttley>

NoraHelmer Thu 31-May-12 12:49:27

grin Hullygully. I'm giving it a go. If I'm not lucky to get one of the free ones this time then I probably will have to bow out buy a copy and hide it as my book-buying budget is all spent smile

heliumballoon Thu 31-May-12 16:40:04

Distributing books randomly is much fairer, good idea MNHQ. But the confirmation page after you sign up still talks about being one of the fifty first responders confused

Blu Thu 31-May-12 16:44:16

£3-99 on Amazon for the paperback is a good bargain, though - and cheaper than the Kindle version confused. How does that work, then?

Anyway, I concur, Patrick G is a National Treasure. I would like him, Jane Gardam, Jane Atkinson and J Coe (when on form) to churn books out on a rota geared to the speed I read at, so that I am never without.

Now I have a real dilemma. Shall I wait and see if I am a lucky winner - or get the Kindle ediction to take on hol with me? I will be off the internet and all things digital after dawn on Saturday...so won't know within the 48 hour notification period.... <<gnaws knuckles>>

Love love Patrick Gale, and this is the week DS1 is in hospital so fingers crossed I am randomly selected so I can have a good read! smile

Although I warn you, I can chunter on about books for ever. blush

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-May-12 17:07:04

heliumballoon

Distributing books randomly is much fairer, good idea MNHQ. But the confirmation page after you sign up still talks about being one of the fifty first responders confused

Thanks for pointing that out, we've amended it.

Blu Thu 31-May-12 17:11:03

Ahem, I meant Kate Atkinson, of course. How embarrassing. On a Book Club thread. (gives self a withering look)

TheFoosa Thu 31-May-12 20:44:21

Patrick Gale is very ~swoonsome~

yousankmybattleship Thu 31-May-12 21:11:27

Oh my GOD! I've just whooped in an entirely inappropriate fashion. Patrick Gale is without douby my favourite writer in the world ever and Rough Music is the most beautiful book ever written and anyone who says otherwise is deluded. Crikey!

lilibet Fri 01-Jun-12 08:34:27

I read this book a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it.

If anyone says a word against it I shall really stamp my foot at them.

ShadeMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Jun-12 10:10:52

The free copies of A Perfectly Good Man have now gone. We'll let you know within the next 48 hours if you were one of the lucky winners.

Blu Fri 01-Jun-12 11:16:05

Rough Music is a magnificent book.

Hullygully Fri 01-Jun-12 12:15:07

I've read Rough Music, can't remember anything about it tho <old> I've read another by him and can't even remember what it was called. I think I vaguely found him a Good Egg. I must check.

Blu Fri 01-Jun-12 13:22:18

Hully - child of a prison governor becomes unknowingly involved in an escape plot. Family party planned for a beach hol in Cornwall where they went when young - coming out, sexual scandal, family history unravels, an art object bought from a chi chi art shop, which features a flip flop which flaps in the wind.

Hullygully Fri 01-Jun-12 14:28:50

Thanks Blu

<worries that it's still tumbleweed between the ears>

Blu Fri 01-Jun-12 14:36:33

It made me want to go STAIGHT to the beach cottage on the Camel estuary where it is all set. Loads of delicious detail.

NoraHelmer Fri 01-Jun-12 17:05:24

Ooh where on the Camel Estuary? I'm going on holiday there tomorrow grin

Blu Fri 01-Jun-12 17:16:24

I don't know - get the book and read it while you're there and see if you can identify it!

NoraHelmer Fri 01-Jun-12 18:05:34

I may just do that Blu smile

Just had an email from MN to say I'm getting a copy of A Perfectly Good Man. Just made my day grin

Slainte Fri 01-Jun-12 20:42:58

Yeehaw just got email to say I'm getting a copy grin

I'm just back from the West Country, where the cliffs and windlashed grass were fitting jolly nicely with my reading material.

Rough Music was the first one I read - but I still haven't got round to Notes from an Exhibition. Anyone got a Digested Read for that? I might give it a go this summer.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Barnaby and his parish...

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 11-Jun-12 19:25:46

Just checking, has anyone had their free copy of the novel yet?
Thanks

motherinferior Mon 11-Jun-12 19:35:23

No, I paid Real Money for it in a shop. Patrick, I bloody loved it. Thank you for writing it.

Slainte Mon 11-Jun-12 19:49:14

Geraldine Not received my copy yet, really looking forward to reading it.

gazzalw Mon 11-Jun-12 20:59:14

No nothing here yet! Think that Jubilee BH well and truly has put the post out of kilter!

SamsGoldilocks Mon 11-Jun-12 21:12:32

not yet....

Abcinthia Mon 11-Jun-12 22:15:33

No I haven't either.

NoraHelmer Tue 12-Jun-12 08:02:12

Hopefully some time this week?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Jun-12 09:42:49

OK, thanks for answering, we're chasing up the publisher now and will post when we know what's what.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Jun-12 11:37:53

Books are being posted today, apparently. So everyone should have their copy by Thurs latest.

Please let us know if you haven't had your copy by then. Email is contactus@mumsnet.com, or post here. We'll keep checking.

And please feel free to post your thoughts about the book, up to and including the chat with Patrick Gale.

gazzalw Tue 12-Jun-12 19:10:37

Thanks GeraldineMumsnet!

Hopefullyrecovering Tue 12-Jun-12 22:22:26

I don't need a copy of the book (already have it) but I just wanted to mark my place. For anyone who hasn't read it, it's a delightful read.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Jun-12 10:31:19

Anyone got their copy yet <hopeful>?

beachhutbetty Thu 14-Jun-12 11:05:22

Didn't come in today's post.

NoraHelmer Thu 14-Jun-12 12:20:20

Just seen the postie walk past - nothing for me either sad

Abcinthia Thu 14-Jun-12 12:21:02

No it didn't arrive today.

Belo Thu 14-Jun-12 21:14:37

No book for me today... Almost finished current book so hoping it will come tomorrow.

Abcinthia Fri 15-Jun-12 12:47:37

My book just arrived.

NoraHelmer Fri 15-Jun-12 12:50:56

My book's just arrived too. Good timing as I've almost finished my current one smile

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 15-Jun-12 12:54:49

<throws hat in air> Hurrah. Hope you enjoy it.

Please come and post your thoughts when you've read it, and any questions you've got for Patrick (I know. I'm like a stuck record.)

gazzalw Fri 15-Jun-12 16:16:07

were the books sent special delivery anyone? If so think the postie tried to deliver if not it's not arrived yet!

NoraHelmer Fri 15-Jun-12 16:51:03

Yes it was special delivery (just noticed it cost £6 to post shock)

OverflowingMum Fri 15-Jun-12 16:57:07

OMG I got a book today .....didn't even know I was getting one(must have missed the email) !!!
Sooo excited LOL! I never win anything !!!! Thanks MNHQ!
Only dilema now is I have to finish current book (only half way through) and then read this one before 27th......oh dear....!!
Anyone want to borrow 6DC for a week so I can get some reading done????

Slainte Fri 15-Jun-12 19:44:09

Mine arrived today too, can't wait to start it smile

Hullygully Sat 16-Jun-12 16:53:49

Mine came. I have started it. It is reminding me of Anita Shreve in tone and Jodi Picoult in here-is-a-dilemma so far.

aristocat Sun 17-Jun-12 00:06:04

I have it too smile mine also came special delivery!

Literally raced through the first 100 pages and I am enjoying it very much.

beachhutbetty Mon 18-Jun-12 08:26:42

I received one Special Delivery on Friday and then got another one delivered today by Fedex! Weird - still I shall pass it on to a friend to read.

DowagersHump Mon 18-Jun-12 09:26:24

Ah beahhutbetty - thanks for that.

I got a copy fedexed today but something arrived by Spec Del on Friday which I haven't been able to collect yet so was a bit confused. I assume that's another copy!

Will start reading it right now smile

DowagersHump Mon 18-Jun-12 09:26:41

beachhutbetty

Hullygully Mon 18-Jun-12 09:30:48

I got two too. V handy as an unexpected birthday hoved into view!

BiscuitNibbler Mon 18-Jun-12 09:41:18

I got a copy on Friday by special delivery and another today by Fedex. Is it ok to pass the spare to a friend?

Abcinthia Mon 18-Jun-12 09:53:58

I got another copy as well.

I'm probably going to donate it to the local charity book stall.

gazzalw Mon 18-Jun-12 12:14:16

Right I will get cracking with my copy and have already promised the extra copy to a well-deserving friend! Thank you for both copies!

SamsGoldilocks Mon 18-Jun-12 12:28:29

I too have received a second copy this morning. Happy to pass it on to a friend if that's ok?

NoraHelmer Mon 18-Jun-12 12:46:02

Now I'm feeling hard done by - I only got one copy grin

Hullygully Mon 18-Jun-12 12:47:28

I've had another fourteen.

Hullygully Mon 18-Jun-12 12:47:56

It's getting out of hand. Earlier there were six FedEx vans lined up in the road.

ripsishere Mon 18-Jun-12 15:22:09

I didn't even know I was going to get a copy. Mine was delivered by UPS I think.
DD signed for it hmm. She reckons it's hers now. She is 11 so probably not the target audience.
Will read and comment. Thank you MN.

Hullygully Mon 18-Jun-12 15:37:32

Only the one?

tsk

ripsishere Mon 18-Jun-12 15:41:16

I have been on the look out for more. We've had a Sainsbury delivery and something from World of Leather in our road today, no more books.

Slainte Mon 18-Jun-12 16:51:52

I've also received two. Can we keep both copies?

coni336 Mon 18-Jun-12 16:57:39

I've got 2 too! What to do with the extra copy? I'm happy to pass it on if someone wants to pay for postage?

Hullygully Mon 18-Jun-12 17:28:20

The police are coming for you both NOW

Slainte Mon 18-Jun-12 19:50:00

grin Hully

GhouliaYelps Mon 18-Jun-12 22:07:06

If anyone wants to pass their book to me I will pay postage - I missed the free copy and was rather gutted. Pls PM me smile

NoraHelmer Tue 19-Jun-12 08:10:40

I spoke too soon yesterday. The Fed Ex van has just been - I now have my second copy too grin Will pass to DH as he's about to finish his current book.

ripsishere Tue 19-Jun-12 08:20:58

The police came for me, and I've only got one.
I started it and am enjoying it immensly. If nobody else comes foreward Ghoulia, you can have mine. Not sure how long it will take me to finish it.
<other stuff going on>

NoraHelmer Tue 19-Jun-12 09:44:27

Is MN aware of the two copies for everyone thing yet?

DS was so disappointed this morning when it turned out to be another book - he's been waiting not so patiently for his new scooter to arrive this week grin

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Jun-12 09:47:53

Thought you might like to listen to this interview with Patrick about A Perfectly Good Man.

Glad you've all got your copies copy.

coni336 Tue 19-Jun-12 09:47:54

Ghoulia I have pmd you smile

kellykateneedsaholiday Tue 19-Jun-12 10:11:28

I got two as well.

DowagersHump Tue 19-Jun-12 19:29:28

I was wondering if reading it on the train today would out me as an MNer. The woman across the aisle didn't bat an eye though

Belo Tue 19-Jun-12 20:13:48

I've just got my 2nd copy. If anybody wants it for the cost of postage PM me and I'll post it on.

Also, in the same box, I received two copies of a picture book by Oliver Jeffies. What do I do with them? Do I need to return them?

Hullygully Wed 20-Jun-12 09:28:19

I've finished. I retract my earlier Jodi Picoult remark made after page 10 or something.

I think the current trend for piecemeal stories is interesting for sliding perspectives, different connections and points of view, and admire it technically for the jigsaw nature, but I am left as usual with a feeling of curious bloodlessness. While definitely gripped by the story, I didn't actually feel engaged with, or care about, any of the characters, just wanted to know how it would all come out.

What do you think, Patrick? Which of the characters (if any) did you see as the hero/es? What were we (if anything) supposed to feel about Barnaby? I felt I had no grip on or understanding of who he was at all. I can see the glimpse of an explanation for his religion given at the end, but nothing as to his feelings, for Dot, or anyone else. Does that even matter?

Likewise, I am not convinced by how Modest travelled from A to B and became who he was, nor Phuc. Is it the "make the reader do some work and fill in the gaps" stuff?

Those are my questions, but let them not detract from the fact that I did enjoy the story and thought it very well constructed.

Hullygully Wed 20-Jun-12 09:29:11

ps I do want to say more (you'll be sorry to hear), but don't want to risk spoilers so will wait.

Hullygully Wed 20-Jun-12 10:09:17

If that is all covered in the interview linked to above, apols. I can't listen to it as my computer is sulking and doing the silent treatment.

gazzalw Wed 20-Jun-12 17:11:58

Finished it today and not sure what to think. I definitely think that Barnaby hid his emotions behind his vicar persona! I admired him on one level but also felt like he'd been a bit of a coward to those who loved him and to whom he needed to show some humility and compassion.

I'm not sure I would have necessarily said that Modest came across as a bad person until his initial crime but boy did he become the most unattractive and unappealing man ever - A Uriah Heap for the 21st Century!

It was an unusual book in that there was not a lot of black and white in terms of good people getting good outcomes and bad people getting bad ones...I feel somewhat confused and think I need to sleep on it tonight to get some perspective!

Passing on to DW to read too!

I've been listening to Patrick's interview (that Gerry linked) where he talks about needing to push himself with 'creative discomfort' and also about his novels getting darker each time. And I didn't realise that this book was intended as a male companion piece to Notes From an Exhibition (did anyone else pick up on this?). Definitely worth a listen if you haven't already.

We're ready for your advance questions: put them up here and I'll forward to Patrick on Monday.

Hully, you already get gold star for first question posted...

gazzalw, interesting about the 'coward' comment. I felt a bit like that too.

Belo, I think the Oliver Jeffers must be a gift from 4th Estate. I reckon you hold onto them/put them in your present drawer/raffle them at the village fete...

ripsishere Thu 21-Jun-12 12:13:17

I am only halfway through it. I have a second copy now if anyone wants it. If not, I'll put it into the school tombola.
<looks around for the sight of Cheshire constabularly raiding my semi>

gazzalw Thu 21-Jun-12 22:24:43

Hi Patrick, I note you were brought up in prison environments with your father having been a prison governor. I note too that Patrick McGrath had a father who was a doctor at Broadmoor Hospital. Do you feel there are any parallels in the way you two write or do you see any similar themes in your works?

I got a real feel of personal, emotional claustrophobia amongst many of the characters in A Perfectly Good Man - is this a recurring theme of your novels (sorry I haven't read any other but intend to do so now) and is this influenced by the oppressive, contained environment in which you were brought up as a child/adolescent?

NoraHelmer Sun 24-Jun-12 20:06:16

I hadn't realised that this novel was intended as a companion to Notes from an Exhibition, which I have also read, but did notice several characters from that novel crop up in this one too.

My question for Patrick is based purely on having read these two novels (will be reading more of them). You obviously know Cornwall very well, in particular the area surrounding Penzance - do you feel that Cornwall (the places and people) is integral to your novels? Or do you think that you could have written the same novel setting it elsewhere? Reading it I felt the strong pull of the close-knit community that notices an outsider and isn't always welcoming to them. (I think this could have applied to last month's book, Night Waking, too.)

I was glad Modest Carlsson got his comeuppance, of a sort, at the end. What a thoroughly unpleasant character.

A quick reminder to put advance q's here and I'll be forwarding to Patrick tonight...

southlondonlady Mon 25-Jun-12 15:12:01

I've just finished the book and enjoyed it. I'm not sure what to make of the ending though, the wedding scene is lovely in some ways but I kept thinking, there are still these secrets, so the happiness isn't built on strong foundations. I felt for Carrie particularly, having never known about Lenny.

So my question for Patrick - did you write the ending to be happy, sad or otherwise?

Geeklette Mon 25-Jun-12 20:31:57

I've delayed posting my question up until now because I normally like to give a discussion book at least two readings, but unfortunately time's been against me so my thoughts are based just on my original read-through.

I didn't find Barnaby a coward, as such, but I did very much get the impression that he was a spectator to his own life. I'm not sure if this was so much because of Barnaby himself, or due to the way the book was written in a series of vignettes. I felt this disengaged me from the characters slightly, in a way that a more narrative series of events might not.

My question to Patrick is about Dorothy/Dot, and covers a point that I had intended to pick up on during a second read of the book. My impression was that Dorothy was a well-rounded, engaging chacater with a lot to contribute to the story, and that this changed completely after her last miscarriage. I felt, in a way, that she was 'abandoned' both by Barnaby and Patrick (the changing of her name to something she didn't like, the comments about her putting on weight that she never bothered getting rid of, the lack of inclusion in the story until, almost as an afterthought, her final encounter with Modest in the church).

Was it Patrick's intention to present Dorothy/Dot as two separate characters? What was Patrick's motivation for switching from having a vibrant sidekick for Barnaby, to having a matronly wife as wallpaper?

Geeklette Mon 25-Jun-12 20:32:45

chacater? Character!

BiscuitNibbler Mon 25-Jun-12 20:44:50

Not quite finished yet, but have to say that the misogyny that overwhelmed Notes From An Exhibition was much more subtle in this book, but still came through strongly in the way the Dorothy character was treated.

Apart from that, I find books written in this way, just showing glimpses of the characters, always seem quite lazy, as though we're just reading a draft of the final story. Why is this becoming so popular with modern authors?

DowagersHump Mon 25-Jun-12 21:57:19

I haven't finished the book I'm afraid but a more general question - I've noticed that religion (or faith or lack of) is a recurring theme in your novels. I wondered why that was. It's entirely outside my own experience so I find it fascinating

blubberguts Mon 25-Jun-12 23:19:29

Patrick, why does Phuc dislike his parents so much?

NoraHelmer Tue 26-Jun-12 08:16:16

I wondered about that too, blubberguts. I came to the conclusion that he was angry because he knew nothing about his Vietnamese heritage, they had unwittingly removed the only connection he had to his birth mother by renaming him and trying to make him wholly Cornish. Also, he must have sensed that Dorothy didn't love him. He didn't know about his father's affair with Nuala, unless we are to assume that he had found out somehow?

Hullygully Tue 26-Jun-12 08:51:08

Maybe because it was idea/ theme/plot driven? So then the characters evolve to fit? eg Phuc, Modest as extreme examples of the alienation from their own lives that afflicts all the characters?

Hullygully Tue 26-Jun-12 08:53:24

I think as well there is a tension with writing stuff as it really is eg people are conflicted, alienated, cowardly, ambivalent, amoral etc and simultaneously fulfilling the needs of fiction for the majority of readers: engagement, caring and warmth.

Do we read fiction for "real" life?

gazzalw Tue 26-Jun-12 09:59:36

Highbrow ideas there Hullygully - are you an English graduate? Very impressed!

Another question for me is that as a bloke I feel the male characters are a lot more shaded than the female ones - is that purposeful or just because as a man yourself you are more easily able to portray male angst, moral ambiguity etc...?

Hullygully Tue 26-Jun-12 10:07:03

<hoiks up bluestockings>

gazzalw Tue 26-Jun-12 10:22:11

grin!

Pendeen Tue 26-Jun-12 19:08:42

Well I suppose, bearing in mind the book's setting I had better join in if only to help with accuracy! grin

aristocat Tue 26-Jun-12 19:47:19

Well, my first comment is that this was A Perfectly Good Read grin

I enjoyed this charming book and loved the chapter idea for each character at a certain stage in their lives. The descriptions of Cornwall were lovely and I thoroughly warmed to Barnaby and felt that his character and personality were convincing.

This book was a joy to read, thank you. I shall look forward to reading more of your work.

I'm probably going to miss this but wanted to say that I really liked A Perfectly Good Man and love Notes From An Exhibition so it was great to have Morwenna and her father reappearing. I read NFAE first on a beach in Suffolk,which is probably very different from Cornwall but I always associate it with Suffolk,particularly as we came across Barbara Hepworth sculptures at Snape.
I chose it for bookgroup to read and it went down extremely well - the ladies were a bit taken aback by a previous choice of mine which was Friendly Fires - the cottaging was a bit alarming for them (they are gentille country ladies).
Anyway, I long for your next book - is there something in the pipeline ?

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Wed 27-Jun-12 12:35:16

Just finished the book this morning, and while I enjoyed reading it, I found the jumping around to different stages in different characters lives quite disorrientating, was this intentional?

I agree with the comments about Barnaby being a spectator in his own life, but found it odd that those close to him viewed this trait as a strength, where as I felt it was a weakness and that he seemed to wash along with life threw at him, rather than ever really fighting for something.

I can't help but wonder if keeping Dot a small character was deliberate, because as others have said she seemed to have the potentail to play a much bigger role in the story, was this done so as not to distract us from Barnaby's story?

Great questions, everyone. Looking forward to hearing Patrick's answers. See you at 9pm sharp.

valiumpoptarts Wed 27-Jun-12 19:40:56

Sorry, once again I have failed to finish the book, I expect Tilly to kick me out of book club at this rate.
Patrick my question is this, how did you research the character of Barnaby and to what extent did you find yourself being careful not just to write a characture of a vicar? DH is a minister type and when I told him about the book he told me about two people he'd dealt with just that day who wanted to kill themselves. If you did do research on it at all did it change your view of the job?
(Sorry Tilly, I know thats two questions too!)

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 27-Jun-12 20:53:46

Patrick Gale just posted this on Twitter: "Good thing it's not radio. So excited at prospect I ate delicious Moroccan chicken far too fast and now have hiccups..." If you want to follow Patrick on Twitter, he's @PNovelistGale. And if you want to follow MN book club, we're @Mumsnetbookclub <startling originality>.
But we're quite excited too...

Abcinthia Wed 27-Jun-12 20:54:02

I really enjoyed reading A Perfectly Good Man.

I wanted to ask about Modest. I found him a very very creepy character. His stalking of Barnaby, the obsession with the red book and he just had a dangerous feel to him. It was almost like Barnaby was prey and Modest was a hunter circling overhead, waiting to strike.

I was wondering if this was to make Barnaby seem all the more good and his faults seem insignificant when compared to Modest.

domesticslattern Wed 27-Jun-12 20:58:39

Looking forward to the webchat!
I finished the book yesterday and really admired the clear, elegant prose style, as well as the sense of place. There were also some excellent turns of phrase: that skill of describing things just so. The characters and plot sometimes seemed implausible though; some places the dialogue felt 'written' rather than spoken, IYSWIM, and certain characters like Modest Carlsson felt like story tale characters not real people. Still, I enjoyed the book, especially the portrayal of the young Dorothy.
Did you write the story chronologically and then divide it and mix it up?

Evening everyone

I am thrilled that Patrick Gale is here tonight to throw light on the inspiration and research behind A PERFECTLY GOOD MAN, and hopefully (although an hour isn’t nearly enough, I feel) talk about all his other books too.

We’ve got many fans keen to talk and many questions to get started with, so without further ado...

Patrick, firstly, many congratulations on another wonderful, beautifully crafted book. And thank you very much indeed for taking the time to join us. We'll kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread. And then we'll aim to get through as many new ones as possible over the next hour.

I'd also like to add our two standard MN Bookclub questions (which we like to ask all authors, and will be archived on the site):

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:01:59

Thanks, TillyI was a Puffin Club member and devoured about a puffin a week for a year or two, but the novels I repeatedly re-read were Tove Jansson’s Moomin novels, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tolbooth and Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books. All of which I still return to when in need of comfort… As for the writing thing. Don’t start any actual writing until the story in your head feels so real to you that it keeps you awake at night. And when you start, try writing in longhand or only working while disconnected from the Internet.

Tiggywinckle1 Wed 27-Jun-12 21:03:03

I loved Barnaby but was a little confused at times with his family, uncles etc. Had to re-read a couple of times to work out who was who, but that's fine

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:18:05

Hullygully

I've finished. I retract my earlier Jodi Picoult remark made after page 10 or something.

I think the current trend for piecemeal stories is interesting for sliding perspectives, different connections and points of view, and admire it technically for the jigsaw nature, but I am left as usual with a feeling of curious bloodlessness. While definitely gripped by the story, I didn't actually feel engaged with, or care about, any of the characters, just wanted to know how it would all come out.

What do you think, Patrick? Which of the characters (if any) did you see as the hero/es? What were we (if anything) supposed to feel about Barnaby? I felt I had no grip on or understanding of who he was at all. I can see the glimpse of an explanation for his religion given at the end, but nothing as to his feelings, for Dot, or anyone else. Does that even matter?

Likewise, I am not convinced by how Modest travelled from A to B and became who he was, nor Phuc. Is it the "make the reader do some work and fill in the gaps" stuff?

Those are my questions, but let them not detract from the fact that I did enjoy the story and thought it very well constructed.

Oh dear, Hullygully. I wasn’t aware it was a trend; evidently I should get out more! I like fractured storytelling because it feels closer to the free-associative way our brains and memories work than the artificial a-to-z approach of tradition. That said I’d hate to get pigeon-holed as that back-to-front writer so I dare say my next one will be less broken-up. If you weren’t engaged, I can only apologise and suggest going back to Ms Jodi P! Barnaby is plainly the central character (hero feels a bit morally freighted as a term) which is why his (lion’s share) of chapters provide the book’s spine. Like Rachel, in my Notes from an Exhibition, I had him reveal himself to us in slow stages, leading us back to the sad scenes of his youth. But the real heroics I feel lie with the three women around him, because they all endure and, just like Rachel, he’s not an easy person to love or live with. And, to answer your third point, yes, I like my readers to do some work by joining the gaps because I feel this makes them unconsciously give a bit of themselves to the piecing together of the story. The hope is that some, unlike you, will feel more deeply engaged emotionally with the narrative than if they were just sat back watching it unspool.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:19:13

BiscuitNibbler

Not quite finished yet, but have to say that the misogyny that overwhelmed Notes From An Exhibition was much more subtle in this book, but still came through strongly in the way the Dorothy character was treated.

Apart from that, I find books written in this way, just showing glimpses of the characters, always seem quite lazy, as though we're just reading a draft of the final story. Why is this becoming so popular with modern authors?

Saddened that you feel I’m a misogynist. Unnerved too, because I so love writing from female viewpoints just as the wonderful likes of Patricia Duncker and A L Kennedy love writing from male ones. I’ve only been accused of that once before, in a rather cruel review by Joan Smith for whom, as a naïve, v young ex public schoolboy, I provided a handy target for practice. I wonder if you’d feel the same if the same stories had been written by a woman? These are novels, after all, not political manifestos or polemics, so I try to have them reflect the range of attitudes and behaviours I see around me rather than portraying ideals or observing political correctness. Thus not all my women are feminist icons and not all my gay characters are perfect – even though I have a weakness for loading the dice in favour of both groups. Dorothy has a terrible time – as plenty of women stuck in remote rural communities do – and she puts on weight (ditto) but she remains strong to the end, and I hope any cruelty in her fate is balanced out by Nuala and Carrie. Sorry. You struck a nerve there, as you’ve probably guessed by now. I’d be interested to hear if any of your fellow readers – male or female – found either this book or Notes misogynist as well...

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:21:27

gazzalw

Hi Patrick, I note you were brought up in prison environments with your father having been a prison governor. I note too that Patrick McGrath had a father who was a doctor at Broadmoor Hospital. Do you feel there are any parallels in the way you two write or do you see any similar themes in your works?

I got a real feel of personal, emotional claustrophobia amongst many of the characters in A Perfectly Good Man - is this a recurring theme of your novels (sorry I haven't read any other but intend to do so now) and is this influenced by the oppressive, contained environment in which you were brought up as a child/adolescent?

Dear gazzalw, I was so very young when we left Wandsworth prison that I don’t think it marked me nearly as deeply as Broodmoor must have done Patrick McGrath. I love his work, especially its more Gothic bits, but suspect the only parallels emerge when I write short stories and let my dark side out. I feel my novels are pretty touchy-feely compared to his, though I think we share an interest in psychology and the ways childhood damage can emerge in our characters’ adult relationships. If prison life interests you, you might enjoy my Rough Music, which is based on our experiences as a family in HMP Wandsworth.

Interesting you should note an emotional claustrophobia in the novel. I don’t think this had anything to do with my childhood but wonder if it’s caused by the novel’s structure; my writing tends to feel very “internal”, dealing as it does with the workings of the characters’ thoughts and feelings more than with their actions. Perhaps in this case the extremity of Pendeen as a setting, its unrelieved quality, combined with the sense of Barnaby’s voluntary imprisonment in his job and marriage also brought on a sense of airlessness. Don’t know. Part of the fun of writing is that I have no control over the effects my writing will take on different readers, so it’s fascinating to hear reactions like yours!

Tiggywinckle1 Wed 27-Jun-12 21:24:07

Did not feel any mysogyny in this book. Dorothy (Dot) is a strong empathetic woman and the characters of Nuala and Carrie are inspiring!

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:24:29

NoraHelmer

I hadn't realised that this novel was intended as a companion to Notes from an Exhibition, which I have also read, but did notice several characters from that novel crop up in this one too.

My question for Patrick is based purely on having read these two novels (will be reading more of them). You obviously know Cornwall very well, in particular the area surrounding Penzance - do you feel that Cornwall (the places and people) is integral to your novels? Or do you think that you could have written the same novel setting it elsewhere? Reading it I felt the strong pull of the close-knit community that notices an outsider and isn't always welcoming to them. (I think this could have applied to last month's book, Night Waking, too.)

I was glad Modest Carlsson got his comeuppance, of a sort, at the end. What a thoroughly unpleasant character.

Hello Nora. Oh I loved Night Waking. It was one of the highlights of my Costa judging last year...

I know Cornwall well and use it a lot but I think I’d use anywhere I happened to be living. I’m strongly influenced by landscape and a place’s atmosphere to the point where it can have an unconscious effect on what I’m writing. In this case it was utterly conscious; I wanted Pendeen to feel like a strong character because it has shaped at least Dorothy, Carrie and Lenny as powerfully as any parent. But what always grips me ultimately is the characters and their relationships so I think I could have set this book equally in a village in Wales or East Anglia.

Glad you approved of Modest’s comeuppance, although, of course, only Tabby and the reader are a party to it and I fear he’ll probably slither off and work similar mischief in a different parish…

Prof and Buttercluck, both characters drawn in a rather unflattering light, worship engineering and science and rationality; their rudest terms are to call someone ‘irrational’ or ‘sentimental’.

Do you feel that people like this are somehow missing the point of life? Should there be less rationality and more mystery?

And am I allowed to ask if you do/don't believe in God?

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:30:55

southlondonlady

I've just finished the book and enjoyed it. I'm not sure what to make of the ending though, the wedding scene is lovely in some ways but I kept thinking, there are still these secrets, so the happiness isn't built on strong foundations. I felt for Carrie particularly, having never known about Lenny.

So my question for Patrick - did you write the ending to be happy, sad or otherwise?

Otherwise, is a good place to aim for I think. I’m a sucker for happy endings but I need them to feel real for my readers, which usually means having a thick thread of sorrow or insecurity running through them. What touches me, time and again, is our capacity for happiness, our will to make it happen despite the odds. I think Carrie and Morwenna will be happy; they have earned it and are clear-eyed about the way things are. Not so sure what will happen to Nuala and Barnaby…

Interesting you should think of the wedding as being the novel’s ending when, of course, it actually ends years and years before that, in the back of Barnaby’s father’s car! As with Notes From an Exhibition, the novel has two endings, the chronological one, and the - wince face at sounding pretentious - spiritual one...

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:33:55

Geeklette

I've delayed posting my question up until now because I normally like to give a discussion book at least two readings, but unfortunately time's been against me so my thoughts are based just on my original read-through.

I didn't find Barnaby a coward, as such, but I did very much get the impression that he was a spectator to his own life. I'm not sure if this was so much because of Barnaby himself, or due to the way the book was written in a series of vignettes. I felt this disengaged me from the characters slightly, in a way that a more narrative series of events might not.

My question to Patrick is about Dorothy/Dot, and covers a point that I had intended to pick up on during a second read of the book. My impression was that Dorothy was a well-rounded, engaging chacater with a lot to contribute to the story, and that this changed completely after her last miscarriage. I felt, in a way, that she was 'abandoned' both by Barnaby and Patrick (the changing of her name to something she didn't like, the comments about her putting on weight that she never bothered getting rid of, the lack of inclusion in the story until, almost as an afterthought, her final encounter with Modest in the church).

Was it Patrick's intention to present Dorothy/Dot as two separate characters? What was Patrick's motivation for switching from having a vibrant sidekick for Barnaby, to having a matronly wife as wallpaper?

Dear Geeklette. I adored Dorothy. I write my novels one character at a time and I wrote Dorothy’s chapters before anyone else’s because I instinctively liked her and felt I knew her inside out. The novel is hard on her but then marriage to a priest is often hard and I needed to reflect that. I certainly don’t think of her as two characters but I tried to show how the disappointments in her marriage, and the shock of Barnaby’s infidelity, actually lead to her growing beyond the narrowly proscribed set of possibilities her mother gives her initially. She ends up having a life apart from Barnaby and a deep fulfillment, independent of him, within the church. Yes she puts on weight, as a lot of not entirely happy people do, but I never meant that to mean I had rejected her.

calypso2008 Wed 27-Jun-12 21:37:28

Hello Patrick - I love your work so much.

Stunned anyone would find your books misogynist - I feel exactly the opposite.

On another note...
I am mindful every day with being impatient with my 4 year old daughter as that scene (I think from 'Notes') where the mother is so impatient about the scampi for her birthday treat that she cries, it haunts me a bit. So I thank you for making me maybe a better mother!

Sorry, I posted this earlier so if it appears twice, apologies. Will be treating myself to your new book this summer.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:38:49

DowagersHump

I haven't finished the book I'm afraid but a more general question - I've noticed that religion (or faith or lack of) is a recurring theme in your novels. I wondered why that was. It's entirely outside my own experience so I find it fascinating

Dear Dowager, (or should that be Your Grace?).
I seem to write about religious experience as often as I write about sex, which is probably cause for concern now that I've turned fifty! I’ve always been drawn to the experiences which are hardest to put into words – the effect of art or music on us is another recurring element in my work. I had a deeply religious childhood from which I retreated as an adult and with which I’ve now arrived at a comfortable, if cowardly, accommodation. I’m certainly not a regular churchgoer but I find the residue of my childhood faith seems to be stitched into the fabric of my being and I can’t ever quite unpick it. It gives me solace or moves me at unexpected moments, on walks or in concerthalls as often as in church. It’s odd because, as with psychotherapy, I don’t think you can be any good as a novelist unless you have a thoroughly examined life; you need to know yourself inside out and back to front and be constantly reexamining your own thoughts and behaviours since these, willy-nilly, provide the template for the thoughts and actions of your characters. And yet there’s this great bit of me – the god-shaped bit, if you will – that lies entirely beyond the powers of my intellect. And of course I find that completely fascinating and keep circling back to it like a cat to a dying bird!

southlondonlady Wed 27-Jun-12 21:40:18

Hello, thanks for answering my question. Yes def saw the wedding as the "ending" of the story, although not the actual end of the book. Interesting that you are not sure how Barnaby and Nuala will end up, I felt slightly queasy about the rekindling of the relationship, perhaps because I liked Dorothy so much.

Could not see any misogyny in the book no!

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:47:36

blubberguts

Patrick, why does Phuc dislike his parents so much?

NoraHelmer

wondered about that too, blubberguts. I came to the conclusion that he was angry because he knew nothing about his Vietnamese heritage, they had unwittingly removed the only connection he had to his birth mother by renaming him and trying to make him wholly Cornish. Also, he must have sensed that Dorothy didn't love him. He didn't know about his father's affair with Nuala, unless we are to assume that he had found out somehow?

Dear Blubberguts and NoraHelmer. It was mainly that poor Dorothy couldn’t love him but the dawning sense of how he’d been cut off from whatever security his Vietnamese heritage might have given him made matters worse. He never knows about the affair and neither does Carrie. I researched this storyline pretty closely and it seems to have been a fairly common problem among the second wave of “Boat People” immigrants and adoptees, many of whom lacked blood family contacts. A well-meaning, very Christian family I knew growing up in Hampshire adopted a Vietnamese baby but raised her in a totally deracinated way and the poor girl went badly off the rails for a while as a teenager. But the race/culture point shouldn’t be overstressed; I think the failure of love in an adoptive mother, however good her intentions, is often devastating whatever the background of the adopted child.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:51:23

Hullygully

I think as well there is a tension with writing stuff as it really is eg people are conflicted, alienated, cowardly, ambivalent, amoral etc and simultaneously fulfilling the needs of fiction for the majority of readers: engagement, caring and warmth.

Do we read fiction for "real" life?

This is a really interesting point, Hullygully. As a novelist, I want to create characters who feel like real people, with all the ambivalence and conflict real people carry in them, yet I’m always aware that many readers look to fiction for a kind of comfort they can’t find in real life.

I suspect the answer lies in narrative structure. The right narrative structure can deliver the comfort – and I don’t necessarily mean happy endings, I’m thinking more of emotional satisfaction, justice if you like – while the characters can cause a lifelike lingering discomfort or worry. It’s good when readers get angry about a character or worry about what will happen to them next; I think that presses more satisfactory buttons in a reader’s emotions than simply giving them sympathetic people to spend time with. I reckon the important thing in characterisation is to offer up details we can all recognize, feelings we have felt, impulses we may have been tempted by.

yUMMYmUMMYb Wed 27-Jun-12 21:54:08

Not quite finished the book yet but wanted to say that so far it is such an engaging read.I really like the way the book is written, it makes the charactes seem more real somehow. I have your other book - notes on an exhibition - on my reading list. Thanks for a good, easy read. Which of your other books would you recommend and has your writing style changed over time?
This book also strikes me as something good for TV, would yoube happy to have your books turned into TV dramas?

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 21:55:23

gazzalw

Another question for me is that as a bloke I feel the male characters are a lot more shaded than the female ones - is that purposeful or just because as a man yourself you are more easily able to portray male angst, moral ambiguity etc...?

Your point about masculine characters is hugely cheering for me but unsettling too. I’ve always taken huge pains with my female characters, precisely because I’m not a woma. In fact with me the risk is always that it’s the male characters who will be underwritten. I hope the women aren’t really as pallid here as you seemed to find them. APGM was conceived as a masculine counterpart to Notes From an Exhibition, which centres on a woman (who is arguably as destructive a parent and spouse as Barnaby manages to be).

Hullygully Wed 27-Jun-12 21:57:14

<skids in at the end, damn meetings>

Hullygully Wed 27-Jun-12 21:59:17

I do NOT want to return to Jodi P. The horror.

Neither do I want to watch a narrative simply "unspool", but I do want care about the characters..

tsh and humph

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:01:48

[quote MaryAnnSingleton] I'm probably going to miss this but wanted to say that I really liked A Perfectly Good Man and love Notes From An Exhibition so it was great to have Morwenna and her father reappearing. I read NFAE first on a beach in Suffolk,which is probably very different from Cornwall but I always associate it with Suffolk,particularly as we came across Barbara Hepworth sculptures at Snape.
I chose it for bookgroup to read and it went down extremely well - the ladies were a bit taken aback by a previous choice of mine which was Friendly Fires - the cottaging was a bit alarming for them (they are gentille country ladies).
Anyway, I long for your next book - is there something in the pipeline ? [\quote]

Glad you enjoyed Notes. I loved East Anglia so don’t at all mind the transferred associations you experience. I wonder if you’ve read my earlier bonkbuster novel The Facts of Life, which is set not a million miles from the places you mention?

My current job is to write an original, three part, gay-themed drama series for BBC2, which is a great challenge and enormously exciting. Reckon they approached me because I don’t like writing sex scenes so – cottaging aside (!) – there’ll be nothing to disgust Tunbridge Wells. But after that I’m itching to start a new novel. Early days – it’s still at the compost heap stage – but it will have something to do with my disgraced great grandfather, who was banished to the Canadian wilds by his faintly terrifying gang of in-laws and made to leave his young wife and baby girl behind. A big departure for me, this, in that both its settings will be well in the distant past – 1910 and 1965. I can already tell the research for the telly series (also partly set pre Woolfenden) is going to feed into it…

Patrick has very kindly said he'll keep going for another 20 minutes, so we'll see how many more q's we can get through in that time... Cross fingers we don't go offline again...

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:06:31

ProfCoxWouldGetIt

Just finished the book this morning, and while I enjoyed reading it, I found the jumping around to different stages in different characters lives quite disorrientating, was this intentional?

I agree with the comments about Barnaby being a spectator in his own life, but found it odd that those close to him viewed this trait as a strength, where as I felt it was a weakness and that he seemed to wash along with life threw at him, rather than ever really fighting for something.

I can't help but wonder if keeping Dot a small character was deliberate, because as others have said she seemed to have the potentail to play a much bigger role in the story, was this done so as not to distract us from Barnaby's story?

Sorry to hear you were disoriented. It wasn’t intended to be a lasting effect. I like to make readers work a bit but I don’t intend to lose them entirely!

The main purpose of the jumbling up – as with Notes From An Exhibition and Rough Music – was to heighten the cruel ironies of the things people remember, or misremember, and the things they forget. I can’t speak for other people but I find I rarely live entirely in the present; I’m forever remembering and reliving, so I find the traditional narrative approach to stories – starting at the beginning and running smoothly through to the end – while soothing, can be a bit too cinematic and artificial. And I like it when the reader is the only one in the story who knows the godlike truth, or at least most of it!

I take the point about Dot. I could so easily have written a novel about her. I love her and care about her and have far more patience with her, really, than with her rather hopeless husband. However it was always going to be his story, not hers and her role was always intended to be supportive and longsuffering – like poor Antony’s was in Notes From an Exhibition.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:08:32

Hullygully

I do NOT want to return to Jodi P. The horror.

Neither do I want to watch a narrative simply "unspool", but I do want care about the characters..

tsh and humph

Ooh er. Sorry! Guess we can't all care about every writer's characters every time. I'm often left cold by novels that have my friends in raptures and vice versa. Just one of those things...

Hullygully Wed 27-Jun-12 22:12:13

Which novelists do you like and/or admire?

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:14:03

valiumpoptarts

Sorry, once again I have failed to finish the book, I expect Tilly to kick me out of book club at this rate.
Patrick my question is this, how did you research the character of Barnaby and to what extent did you find yourself being careful not just to write a characture of a vicar? DH is a minister type and when I told him about the book he told me about two people he'd dealt with just that day who wanted to kill themselves. If you did do research on it at all did it change your view of the job?
(Sorry Tilly, I know thats two questions too!)

I'm quite sure Tilly wouldn't kick you out. She's far too friendly and supportive for that!
Okay. Vicar research first. I know a lot of priests and always have, probably because my parents were so very devout (and my grandfather and great grandfather were priests). So I had no trouble finding flesh and blood priests - and, just as importantly, priest's wives and children, I could quiz. I certainly didn't want to write a caricature - as a nation we seem pathetically prone to nervous joking on the subject of faith, as we are about sex - but was also keenly aware both of the heavy burden of comic tradition (viz Trollope) and the risk that a priest as a hero might put a lot of people off. So I made sure I focussed almost more on the work priests have to do outside church services, indeed away from church entirely, as on the interesting question of faith itself. My view of the job remains unchanged; that it's a simply awful one, increasingly, and I can't think why perfectly good men and women continue to lay their heads on the block to take it on as often as they do.

Hullygully Wed 27-Jun-12 22:14:05

And I'm sorry if I don't sound very nice, that's the trouble with tinternet, can't do the smiles and hedgings that make words more acceptable and palatable... I supposed I am more interested in your views on the trend (that you are unaware of) than to directly bash you up over it.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:17:53

Hullygully

And I'm sorry if I don't sound very nice, that's the trouble with tinternet, can't do the smiles and hedgings that make words more acceptable and palatable... I supposed I am more interested in your views on the trend (that you are unaware of) than to directly bash you up over it.

I'm sure you're perfectly lovely and don't feel remotely bashed up. The trend thing is so odd. Most of us work on our novels in relative or complete isolation so it can be really galling to come up for air at the end of it to find that the novel one thought completely original is actually picking up on something in the zeitgeist.

Jojo Moyes and I had no idea we were simultaneously writing novels that were partly triggered by Daniel James's parents taking him to Dignitas to be killed, until, that is, we found ourselves reading at the same literary salon in Shoreditch...

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:26:05

Abcinthia

I really enjoyed reading A Perfectly Good Man.

I wanted to ask about Modest. I found him a very very creepy character. His stalking of Barnaby, the obsession with the red book and he just had a dangerous feel to him. It was almost like Barnaby was prey and Modest was a hunter circling overhead, waiting to strike.

I was wondering if this was to make Barnaby seem all the more good and his faults seem insignificant when compared to Modest.

Almost every novel I've written has a character who threatens to break out of the tidy plan I've laid for them and take over. In The Whole Day Through it was the heroine's indomitable mother, in Tree Surgery for Beginners it was the hero's ditto. Here it was Modest. There's a saying that virtue writes white, and I knew from very early on that I'd need some sin in the mix, something a bit nasty, to avoid the risk of blandness or piety. So Modest came about because I needed someone who only passed for good but who only the reader would not be fooled by. I needed to give the devil a voice. And, true to tradition, the devil sang rather well and loudly! Modest demanded more and more space and - because I write my novels one character at a time - I became extremely uneasy and disturbed at having to spend week after week under this horrible man's skin. It got to the point where I realised I was almost rooting for him. And then I got to the scene where he was physically pursuing Barnaby rather than just metaphorically doing it, and I honestly didn't know what was going to happen next.

But basically Modest's role is to make us think about virtue, and the different between seeming virtue and the real thing.

I wish we could keep going all evening, but I feel we should let Patrick get to his well-earned glass of wine...

Patrick, you have been a complete star and answered everyone's messages with such thoughtfulness. And answered almost all of them, despite the site going offline at the beginning. Thank you very, very much for your time and energy - we really appreciate it.

Looking forward to the BBC series, and can't wait to see what the next novel holds - your ancestor's story sounds fascinating. Meanwhile, living in Suffolk as I do, I am off to buy Notes From an Exhibition pronto.

Good luck with the future projects and please come back to talk about them (your third MN webchat! it could be a record...)

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:30:02

domesticslattern

Looking forward to the webchat!
I finished the book yesterday and really admired the clear, elegant prose style, as well as the sense of place. There were also some excellent turns of phrase: that skill of describing things just so. The characters and plot sometimes seemed implausible though; some places the dialogue felt 'written' rather than spoken, IYSWIM, and certain characters like Modest Carlsson felt like story tale characters not real people. Still, I enjoyed the book, especially the portrayal of the young Dorothy.
Did you write the story chronologically and then divide it and mix it up?

Well I'm glad you enjoyed it despite reservations about the realism. No. I didn't write it chronologically. I'm a bit weird in that not only do I write with pen and ink but I write one character at a time. So I did all Dorothy's chapters then all Modests then all Carrie's and so on. Only at the second draft stage do I then have the huge headache of weaving it all together.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:34:02

Hullygully

Which novelists do you like and/or admire?

Ann Tyler, Colm Toibin, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Armistead Maupin, Alan Hollinghurst, Damon Galgut, Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra. Lots, really. I'm a bit passive in that I tend to read whatever comes my way - good or bad. I never stop learning about writing from reading, and I find I can learn as much from the failures as the successes. I'm also childishly allergic to cults, so if everybody is raving about a novel I'll probably avoid reading it for a year or two until the fuss dies down. That's one of the good things about Kindles. I try to make a point of regularly reading a dead author, if only to keep the marketing departments in their proper place.

PatrickGale Wed 27-Jun-12 22:35:06

TillyBookClub

I wish we could keep going all evening, but I feel we should let Patrick get to his well-earned glass of wine...

Patrick, you have been a complete star and answered everyone's messages with such thoughtfulness. And answered almost all of them, despite the site going offline at the beginning. Thank you very, very much for your time and energy - we really appreciate it.

Looking forward to the BBC series, and can't wait to see what the next novel holds - your ancestor's story sounds fascinating. Meanwhile, living in Suffolk as I do, I am off to buy Notes From an Exhibition pronto.

Good luck with the future projects and please come back to talk about them (your third MN webchat! it could be a record...)

Thank you, Tilly. It's been a delight. Only sorry my connection seemed to be playing up now and then so I wasn't as speedy in my answers as I might have been. And any readers who missed out can always get hold of me and post questions to me on www.galewarning.org.

Night all.

Just quickly to say thanks to everyone too, for making it such an enjoyable and interesting chat and apologies if your questions didn't get answered in the time we had. Do take Patrick up on his offer and send it direct...

See you all for July's bookclub, the page goes live tomorrow around 10am...

Papillon3112 Wed 27-Jun-12 23:22:53

I agree. I would quite happily have read more about Dorothys life & was sad when her 'voice' finished speaking. I don't know why but I found much of this novel profoundly sad....not depressing just sad. I haven't got quite to the end so not sure if there is an uplifting moment - I shall soon find out no doubt.

domesticslattern Wed 27-Jun-12 23:48:59

Thank you very much Patrick for this webchat. I found it really interesting and you took such care to answer our questions.

gazzalw Thu 28-Jun-12 06:23:25

Yes, thank you for answering my questions Patrick. I too will be going on a hunt for some of your other books!

NoraHelmer Thu 28-Jun-12 08:55:35

Thank you Patrick for answering my question and for a very interesting webchat. I will definitely be reading more of your books, and looking out for your tv series smile

Pendeen Thu 28-Jun-12 16:58:41

Damn and more swearings...

Completely forgot about it!

And Patrick was soo nice as well - fancy him saying:

"... I wanted Pendeen to feel like a strong character ..."

How sweet is that? smile

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Mon 02-Jul-12 09:15:31

Just wanted to thank Patrick for answering my questions, having read his response, I feel guilty as my question wasn't meant as a critisism, probably more indicative of my readign style.

I have just downloaded a few other books of his to my Kindle and passed my book club copy to a colleague who is already half way through and loves it.

Thanks Mumsnet for another great book and expanding my typical readign habbits

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