The structure of Rough Music is a masterstroke. Gale sets the two narratives on collision course, thus increasing the urgency of his novel; which is, in fact, a parable about sexual honesty and the love that can be built only on candour and passion. Gale is one of the few male novelists I have read who draws with sympathy and intelligence the contradictions and confusions of heterosexual women in conventional relationships. Gale is an optimistic writer. He takes care of his readers. It is worth pondering the epigraphs to this novel. They are all about loss, absence, desire and the terrifying inevitable resurgence of our own sexual betrayals, which we would rather not acknowledge. Gale is a master of register. Rough Music is, like all family histories, by turns disturbing and funny.

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