Today I’m excited to feature author Patrick Gale. I was fortunate to see Patrick in conversation with Damian Barr as part of the Gladfest literature festival in September. Having plucked up the courage (in the after event book-signing) to ask if he’d consider taking part in Five on Friday, I was delighted (understatement!) when he said yes!
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. He’s a passionate gardener, cook, and cellist and chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival each October. He is patron of Penzance LitFest and a director of both Endelienta and the Charles Causley Trust. His sixteen novels include the Costa-shortlisted A Place Called Winter, A Perfectly Good Man and Notes From an Exhibition – both of which were Richard and Judy Bookclub selections – The Whole Day Through and Rough Music. His latest, Take Nothing With You is a tale of teenage obsession, sexuality, betrayal and music-making. He is also the author of the Emmy award-winning BBC drama, Man in an Orange Shirt
So over to Patrick:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
The Keel Row sung by Kathleen Ferrier. This reminds me intensely of my parents and of singing along with my mother on long holiday car journeys.
O Waly Waly in Benjamin Britten’s arrangement. Another folk song. I’ve always loved its agonising simplicity and I think it goes to the heart of many of the stories I right with its evocation of love gone wrong or love as a force for harm as well as good.
Any of the Bach suites for unaccompanied cello would do but if I’m only allowed one movement I’ll take the first from the third suite in C major. I’m a cellist and these extraordinary pieces go to the heart of what I love about the cello – its range, its emotional “voice”.
Brahms String sextet No 1, second movement. I often write listening to chamber music and this is incredibly powerful: a set of variations on a typically Brahmsian melody that manages to be at once tragic and hopeful. Perhaps because he was a humanist rather than straightforwardly Christian, Brahms’ music seems to capture the rich difficulty of the here and now, the striving. I had the great good luck to perform this piece with some friends a couple of years ago so the second cello line is now hard wired into me!
From The Gutter from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. Ideally I’d like the whole opera, of course, but this track typifies why the work is so amazing. It’s a slow build barnstormer sung by all the female characters in the work, who suddenly find themselves thrown together on the street when the men storm off on a manhunt. They’re difficult, spiky people with little in common but as their music soars they briefly find common ground in the shitty way they’re treated by men. I am an opera nut and Peter Grimes was the first opera to hook me into a very expensive, lifelong passion. I can’t recommend it too highly for the uninitiated. Incredibly dramatic, genuinely shocking and shot through with moments, like this one, where the sun seems to come through the storm clouds.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Take a deep breath before you answer back.
The friends who make you feel bad probably aren’t that friendly.
Bullies are miserable people.
Go to the gym and become the person you desire.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I was very nearly an actor instead
My team won University Challenge
I’m a recovering bridge addict
My second name is Evelyn.
I’m a great-times-many-nephew of Nelson
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
My bucket is empty.
I have such an amazing life I’d be perfectly happy to die next week.
All the things on my bucket list involved long haul travel – seeing Japan, India, riding in Argentina etc – and I now try to avoid any flying that isn’t work-related at least.
My only lingering anxiety around death is that I can’t decide whether it’s better to die before my husband or after him. So perhaps we can go together?
Thanks you so much for sharing with us Patrick and many thanks for making this fangirl very happy! I must go and listen to some of your music choices. While I don’t consider myself a classical music aficionado, I do like the cello pieces I’ve heard. I’m certainly with you with dogs, life is so much fuller with them. I think I might have done well to heed your wise advice of ‘take a deep breath before you answer back’ – something I still could heed at times. I love that your bucket is empty. To be happy and content with life is a great place to be – long may that continue.
1970s Weston-Super-Mare and ten-year-old oddball Eustace, an only child, has life transformed by his mother’s quixotic decision to sign him up for cello lessons. Music-making brings release for a boy who is discovering he is an emotional volcano. He laps up lessons from his young teacher, not noticing how her brand of glamour is casting a damaging spell over his frustrated and controlling mother.
When he is enrolled in holiday courses in the Scottish borders, lessons in love, rejection and humility are added to daily practice.
To find yourself, sometimes you must lose everything.
A shy but privileged elder son, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest force him to abandon his wife and child and sign up for emigration to Canada.
Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war and madness that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.
On a clear, crisp summer’s day in Cornwall, a young man carefully prepares to take his own life, and asks family friend, John Barnaby, to pray with him. Barnaby – priest, husband and father – has always tried to do good, though life hasn’t always been rosy. Lenny’s request poses problems, not just for Barnaby, but for his wife and family, and the wider community, as the secrets of the past push themselves forcefully into the present for all to see.
Laura Lewis has left her life in Paris and returned home to Winchester to care for her aging, but still sharp mother. Ben has moved away from his beautiful and loyal wife to support his brother, living alone since their mother’s death. A chance encounter reminds them both of the relationship – and the spark – they once shared.
In the course of a single summer’s day, they come face to face with the feelings of love and regret they share, and the choices they must make; whether to be true to themselves, or to what they believe is the right thing to do.
A lonely prison governor’s wife develops a sudden passion for an unexpected hobby; a cookery connoisseur suspects his homophobic father and brothers are attempting to manipulate him and looks for revenge; a grandmother offers hair-raising family tales to her abandoned grandchildren; a sex demon in an old casket gruesomely transforms a honeymooning couple.
In his second collection of short stories, Patrick Gale creates worlds where the making and breaking of relationships -between mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, lovers and strangers -offer unforgettably dark and moving twists to these utterly unpredictable lives.
Celebrated artist Rachel Kelly dies alone in her Penzance studio, after decades of struggling with the creative highs and devastating lows that have coloured her life. Her family gathers, each of them searching for answers. They reflect on lives shaped by the enigmatic Rachel – as artist, wife and mother – and on the ambiguous legacies she leaves them, of talent, torment and transcendent love.
Sophie, an orphan in love with learning, is sure she will thrive in Tatham’s, an esteemed boarding school, having survived years of institutional living. But she soon finds herself lost among its cliques and rituals. Befriending two teenage boys, she experiences the first ache of futile love, then a brilliant teacher’s inappropriate attention to one of the trio threatens to destroy them all. Sophie swiftly realizes that there are tougher lessons to absorb outside the schoolroom – of class, sex, families and the emotional disaster they can bring to even the most privileged lives.
Since her mother’s death, nine year old Dido has been living with her eccentric aunt, acting as peacekeeper between Eliza, her estranged husband Giles and his girlfriend. They are each cruelly burdened in different ways. Chance draws them down to Cornwall, where a country idyll offers to lighten their urban cares. Eliza falls in love with local farmer, Pearce, an event that causes the four adults to re-assess their lives, with some painful and unforeseen consequences for adults and child alike.
Julian is a contented if naïve only child, and a holiday on the coast of North Cornwall should be perfect, especially when distant American cousins join the party. But their arrival brings upheaval and unexpected turmoil.
It is only as a seemingly well-adjusted adult that Julian is able to reflect on the realities of his parents’ marriage, and to recognise that the happy, cheerful boyhood he thought was his is infused with secrets, loss and the memory of betrayals that have shaped his life.
When Lawrence Frost wakes up one morning to discover his wife and child have gone missing, there is gruesome evidence to suggest he may be the main suspect in a murder investigation. Confused, threatened with the loss of everything he loves, Lawrence is sent to the Caribbean on a kill-or-cure cruise. On board and ashore he will discover love, deceit, the truth about his missing family, and the blessings that come with surrendering to destiny.
A funeral party ends in an unexpected manner; parents are faced with difficult decisions about their daughter; a housewife transforms her personality with a simple touch-up; a father’s trip to his former school brings back memories of love he thought buried forever.
From gothic thrills and twisted comedy to moving family vignettes, Dangerous Pleasures offers a memorable collection of Patrick Gale’s brilliant short stories of marriage, sex and mortality.
German composer Edward Pepper escapes to England just before the war begins in earnest. Struck with TB, he is recuperating in hospital when he meets Sally, a young doctor who has battled her way through medical school, despite the opposition of her parents. They fall in love and marry, settling in the fenlands of East Anglia. Years later, Edward watches as his grandchildren trip up against life and death, and realises that patterns can repeat themselves, bringing both pain and unexpected discovery.
A stylish, thick-skinned publisher is thrown into confusion when the wealthy businessman who has long maintained her as his mistress is widowed. Now that he’s free to marry her, does she want to give up her independence? Or could she, perhaps, engage his gay son to help her find him a new wife?
Notoriously the hardest title to track down in Patrick’s backlist because it was published under the title Secret Lives along with novels by his friends Francis King and Tom Wakefield.
Judith shares her life with her partner Joanna on the lonely wilds of Bodmin Moor, far from the memories and trauma of her childhood. But when Judith’s sister, Deborah, is tragically widowed, the women agree to meet. And what is intended to be a harmonious reunion turns into an entanglement of resentment, jealousy and desire, as aspects of the past force themselves into an uneasy present, with some surprising results.
Eight years ago, Robin fled from his family, friends, and entire life, to suffer a complete breakdown in an island monastery. Now he’s reconnecting with those he left behind: his mother and father, with their own small secrets, and Jake and Candida, both of whom were impossibly close to Robin when he disappeared. But while the people he abandoned have missed him, Robin finds that everything has changed. He alone can decide what he will do in this new world of resentment, possibility and triumphant love.
American Professor Evan Kirby, moving to Barrowcester to research Paradise after a successful book on Hell, expects a very English cathedral society of gentle clergymen and coffee mornings. What he finds instead is a town thrown into chaos by strange, supernatural events, scandalous pregnancies and a Satanic summoning of a young feral girl.
Musical-obsessed Hilary Metcalfe, abandoned by his lover Rufus on his birthday, gets drunk, discovers a baby and brings it home to his flat above a corner shop to provide comfort and company. Rufus, meanwhile, allows himself to be seduced by a frivolous young woman, who is actually Hilary’s professional, high-powered sister, romancing under a pseudonym to escape the reality of her own loneliness.
In this witty, bawdy slice of sex and lies, the trio will find themselves drawn together ever more tightly by the lures of hedonism, self-delusion and the inescapable desire to be needed.
Domina Tey is a playwright, celebrated by friends, her husband, and the public alike, yet she fears losing her vital edge. Her solution: to leave her beautiful home in Bristol and seek adventure in a squalid West London bedsit, where she will live under an assumed name with only her typewriter for companionship. Once installed, however, she can’t resist meddling in the business of others, forgetting that blurring fact with fiction can be a dangerous game.
Seth, a musical prodigy on the eve of his sixteenth birthday, is obsessed with sex and with the men he might meet, as well as with his strange family – his arch mother, his beautiful sister, and his damaged, distant father.
Mo, a policewoman struggling with moral dilemmas and her sexuality in the violent, bigoted police force of the 1980s, wants only to find romance.
In this haunting tale of self discovery and hidden identities, Mo and Seth will connect to face unexpected truths about themselves, and those they have chosen to love.
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