Little Bits of Baby (1989)
Candida is a breakfast television presenter with a sweet baby, a fairly sweet little boy and a sexy husband in advertising but her profile is waning and she begins to suspect a spiritual void in her life. She tries to fill it by announcing that the baby is to be christened and that she wants her childhood friend, Robin to be a godfather.
Viewed in one light Robin is the perfect candidate, given that he has withdrawn from the world to a remote island monastery. Viewed in another, he’s a human time bomb, unhinged, resentful, heedless of whom he hurts and brooding over unfinished emotional business involving Jake, the sexy husband.
But life in a Gale narrative is never simple and the man who might have proved Candida’s nemesis meets a romantic nemesis of his own in the shape of Faber, a painter and gay father.
Written in the full flush of new love, overshadowed by the onset of AIDS among several of his friends, this is at once an intensely romantic novel – heavily influenced by Patrick’s compulsive reading of Iris Murdoch and full of a sense of possibility – and a narrative shot through with a sense of mortality and the preciousness of fleeting joy. Whelm, the unorthodox male community that has been sheltering Robin when the novel begins would be invoked again in The Facts of Life where we visit its sister community of women, Corry.
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Reviews of Little Bits of Baby
The book’s full of sharply observed human surprises and discoveries. Patrick Gale writes with great charm and kindliness, warmth and humour. His message seems to be that love and simplicity can repair even the most chaotic lives and that generosity and flexibility are the way to happiness after disaster.
The Natal Witness
Richly anarchic, immensely accomplished and enormously moving, Little Bits of Baby is a real treat.
A richly comic novel about the equilibrium of urban lives and loves upset by an outsider. Affectionate and perceptive.
The Mail on Sunday
Robin is the catalyst behind a taut series of events that unfolds with the rhythm and control of a good mystery. Every character and setting pulses with charged detail and dramatises the various kinds of love and guilt that grow between parents and children, men and women, and men and men. The isolation of blindness and madness, as well as the concealment of same-sex love, are explored with sensitivity and humour. A praiseworthy work.
One of two public figures with whom, on the basis of their works alone, I would very much like to go to bed…
Love, death, the decay of friendship, the triumph of love – all the big themes are here in small doses, cunningly plotted and skilfully interwoven by Patrick Gale, who writes like Iris Murdoch on pep pills. … Savage, satirical, often very funny, this highly readable comedy of middle class manners is written by a young author of boundless talent. One to watch.
Daily Mail – Val Hennessy
This is a witty book with more than a touch of satire, but which deals with love, pain, death and laughter with an extraordinary depth of understanding.
As long as you don’t find a book that makes you laugh and cry unacceptably manipulative, it’s an ideal way to round off a gourmet evening. Delicious.
Sharp insights into a thoroughly modern marriage.
A wonderful modern comedy of manners, neatly crafted and full of compassion for all its most foiblesome cast.
Take a small group of people whose lives are all more or less enmeshed, add a divisive element and watch the ensuing chaos. Iris Murdoch is the doyenne of this technique, but Patrick Gale employs it with considerable success in his fifth novel. His discreet exploration of love between the generations and the sexes is by turn poignant and humorous.
Savagely gleeful…Gale adroitly keeps the many elements of this barbed farce aloft: his satire is deft, his plot entertainingly stuffed with surprises, and his characters are generally drawn with a laser like attention to their foibles and passions…A blithe, original, engaging satire of the hustling spirit of contemporary Britain.
New York Times