A Poet’s Progress

The Cornish poet Charles Causley might be an underappreciated figure today, but his fictionalised representation in Patrick Gale’s new novel should do much to introduce his work to a new audience, assuming that Mother’s Boy enjoys the success of Gale’s previous books A Place Called Winter and Notes from an Exhibition. It certainly deserves to. But this is not simply a fictionalised rendering of Causley’s life. Gale interweaves a Bildungsroman-esque account of his upbringing in 1920s Cornwall (and increasingly troubled realisation of his sexuality) with the story of how his mother, Laura, a former domestic servant, comes to believe that her son is nothing less than a genius.

Gale writes with great sympathy and authority about Causley, whom he refers to, familiarly, as ‘Charles’ throughout. At times, his writing has something of the passion of Lawrence and Hardy in its evocation of untutored promise being steadily brought out into the wider world. The depiction of Laura and

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