A Perfectly Good Man

A Perfectly Good Man

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Patrick Gale

“Do you need me to pray for you now for a specific reason?”
“I’m going to die.”
“We’re all going to die. Does dying frighten you?”
“I mean I’m going to kill myself.”

When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy’s reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest. The personal stories of his wife, children and lover illuminate Barnaby’s ostensibly happy life, and the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby’s repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous.

Returning us to the rugged Cornish landscape of Notes from an Exhibition, Patrick Gale lays bare the lives and the thoughts of a whole community and asks us: what does it mean to be good?

Reviews of A Perfectly Good Man

  • ‘Guaranteed to give the reader a warm glow’ Independent

    ‘Warm and humane, this novel is beautifully written’ The Times

    ‘This being Gale there’s a compelling tale to be told … a convincing, moving account of man’s struggle with faith, marriage and morality’ Sunday Times

    ‘At his best, Gale is an effortlessly elastic storyteller, a writer with heart, soul, and a dark and naughty wit, one whose company you relish and trust. In fact you feel you would believe anything he told you – and if I have a small complaint, it’s that he sometimes doesn’t quite seem to realise it, doesn’t trust in his own genuine power. Now and then he writes a little too hard, too carefully or too deliberately. Relax, you want to tell him. Trust yourself, because we do. Do less, because what you do is already so effective. But it’s a minor quibble in a novel which managed to upset and uplift me in equal measure, and which kept me company – and kept me guessing – right through to its slightly bitter and heartfelt end’ Julie Myerson, Observer

    ‘What Gale does so well is to delineate the unpremeditated spider-web consequences of actions, most particularly those where the intentions are apparently perfectly “good”. The unfolding nightmare for all the family of the consequences of adopting are exquisitely and painfully documented… The final chapter left me with a lump in my throat’ Salley Vickers, Guardian

    ‘Late at night on the day a new Patrick Gale arrives I am always to be found crouching on the icy bathroom floor, banished from the bedroom for keeping my husband awake, feverishly turning the pages. The pins and needles are terrible, but worth it.’ Spectator