Notes from an Exhibition

Patrick Gale

Bestselling author Patrick Gale tells the story of Rachel Kelly, whose life has been a sacrifice to both her extraordinary art and her debilitating manic depression.

When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children have more than the usual mess to clear up. She leaves behind an extraordinary and acclaimed body of work – but she also leaves a legacy of secrets and emotional damage it will take months to unravel.

A wondrous, monstrous creature, she exerts a power that outlives her. To her children she is both curse and blessing, though they all in one way or another reap her whirlwind, inheriting her waywardness, her power of loving – and her demons…Only their father’s Quaker gifts of stillness and resilience give them any chance of withstanding her destructive influence and the suspicion that they came a poor second to the creation of her art.

The reader becomes a detective, piecing together the clues of a life – as artist, lover, mother, wife and patient – which takes them from contemporary Penzance to 1960s Toronto to St Ives in the 1970s. What emerges is a story of enduring love, and of a family which weathers tragedy, mental illness and the intolerable strain of living with genius.

Patrick Gale’s latest novel shines with intelligence, humour and tenderness.

Reviews of Notes from an Exhibition

    • ‘I was completely enthralled by “Notes from an Exhibition.” Patrick’s Gale’s prose grows ever more acrobatic and heartstopping, though somehow he never seems to be showing off. And few writers have grasped the twisted dynamics of family the way Gale has. There’s really no one he can’t inhabit, understand and forgive.’ Armistead Maupin
    • ‘All the characters are dimensional and heartbreaking. It is a book saturated with love and humanity. And it has a great last line.’ Barbara Gowdy
    • ‘Poised and pitch–perfect throughout, this is an engrossing portrait of a troubled and remarkable character. A fine writer at the top of his game.’ Mail on Sunday
    • ‘This is an uplifting, immensely empathetic novel, and Gale’s prose, as ever is as clear and bright as the Cornish light.’ Guardian
    • ‘A tender, powerful novel.’ The Gloss
    • ‘This is a book full of insight, intelligence and quiet humour familiar from his previous masterpiece, “Rough Music”.’ Image magazine
    • ‘Gale moves seamlessly between different characters, and from past to present, so we never the narrative thrust. An excellent summer read.’ Psychologies magazine
    • ‘His sense of place is utterly coherent and he makes the background easy to navigate…the writing itself is so unpretentious, and Gale brings such patience and generosity to the story, that one cannot help but respond to his uplifting faith in human nature.’ New Statesman