Death’s Dark Veil opens with someone on their death-bed being taunted and observed by ghostly figures. She knows who they are and knows they have come to escort her to the next world, but their descriptions are terrifying and I wondered if she could ever rest in peace.
The first chapters introduce two very different characters, Georgie and Ivy, and these two young girls create the theatre for a very dark and dangerous show. Each has a tragic start to their adult lives but grow into strong and capable young women. We follow them individually to the time their lives collide at Tenley House, the Gothic towering home of first Daphne and Kenneth, then Georgie and Kenneth, as well as a dreadful old bat mother-in-law, Phyllis. Evil is all around, too many deaths for comfort (and coincidence), so who is behind these suspicious deaths?
Well written in a dark and menacing way with a good amount of humour to keep things light – the nick-name for curmudgeonly Phyllis, (Syphilis) had me howling. There are gasp out loud moments at tragedies and deaths, and there is a great twist at the end. I certainly didn’t guess the outcome and I loved the ending.
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Patrick Gale’s writing is exquisite. I haven’t read many of his novels but each one I have read has been perfectly told, at just the right pace with a large dose of compassion and tenderness.
Eustace is an only child but he wasn’t his parents’ only child. Much of his insecurities stem from the fact that he survived when his siblings didn’t, although he doesn’t know that from his parents. The story begins with Eustace as an adult just having been told he has cancer. He has also just fallen in love and doesn’t know if he can tell his new love of his recent diagnosis. We mostly see Eustace growing up in the old peoples’ home where he lives with his mother and father. He’s a bit of a strange young boy; he enjoys ballet but when his father is angry after seeing him ‘prancing around’ he is forced to change course and learns to play the cello. Eustace has a gift for music and becomes quite an impressive young player.
Eustace’s mother is remote and fragile until she starts taking Eustace to Bristol at the weekends to stay with Carla his cello teacher, and her two gay friends. Mother becomes more alive than ever she is at home and Eustace sees a wonderful new side to his mother, especially when drinking wine with Carla. Eustace’s cello lessons, as well as his private schooling, become a stretch too much for his parents, and at the age of thirteen has to attend the local comprehensive school. He didn’t have an easy time at the private school, he is a slightly weird child, and relies heavily on Vernon, his one friend who also moves to the comprehensive with him.
This is a coming of age story which is sad and touching on so many levels. It’s not unexpected that Eustace is gay, but in the wrong school with the wrong people he’s a jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit, but put him in the right setting with musical and artistic people, Eustace flourishes. As he grows, there is tragedy, laughter and raw emotion, until we meet Eustace again with his new love in the present day.
Take Nothing With You is a beautiful literary piece. It’s impeccably written by a talented master of the pen and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any of Patrick Gale’s books. Totally recommended.
This one made a deep emotional impact on me – it’s the only book I can honestly say made me teary eyed – twice! On reading the first few pages, I thought it felt very much like Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes At The Museum, another book which made a big impact. It also had similar emotional overtones of A Man Called Ove.
The prologue introduces Dora and Leonard Judd, parents of Ellis, while Dora is still pregnant with Ellis. It is only a short prologue but gives an insight of the early life Ellis would have had and his mother’s strength of character.
The first half of the book is written in third person of Ellis – Tin Man – so called because he works in Tinny Bay, the area of the car factory which knocks out dents of car panels. It took me a short while to get used to the minimalist punctuation of the writing style – no speech marks so therefore had to concentrate on who was speaking. We go back and forth through Ellis’s life, back to a young teen when he first met Michael after both boys became motherless. Their bond and closeness started immediately and never left either of them, even when Ellis met his darling Annie.
In the second half of the book the writing switches to first person and we hear Michael’s very sad and detailed account of his life with and without Ellis. Throughout the book, particularly for Michael although it is Ellis who is the artist, a print of one of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings which Dora won in a raffle in the prologue, features strongly.
I really don’t want to give too much of the story away because this isn’t a book of plots and twists, it’s the discovery of self and each other, so you really need to experience this for yourself. You may already have guessed or some might like to take this as a ‘warning’ that the story is mostly of gay love, not graphic, but so delicately and sensitively told.
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