Reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books

In this novel, set during and between the first and second world wars, Patrick Gale addresses the life of the real poet Charles Causley, and that of his mother, Laura.

The novel begins with the ordinary and lovely story of Laura, a young woman in service.

Her parents having both been in the workhouse, Laura is delighted to live and work in a warm house where food is regular. She meets Charlie, a groom to a local family, and the good-natured pair are married.

Reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books

In this novel, set during and between the first and second world wars, Patrick Gale addresses the life of the real poet Charles Causley, and that of his mother, Laura.

The novel begins with the ordinary and lovely story of Laura, a young woman in service.

Her parents having both been in the workhouse, Laura is delighted to live and work in a warm house where food is regular. She meets Charlie, a groom to a local family, and the good-natured pair are married.

World War I breaks out, Laura falls pregnant, Charlie goes to fight, and Charles Causley is born.

This really is a story of events, and it would be easy to fix a timeline on the narrative because the author has based it on real people and pivotal events in their lives. The magic happens though when Gale takes his inspiration from lines of poetry or fragments of Charles’ diary and gives him, and Laura, a rich and poignant life.

Set mostly in Cornwall, we are immersed in Cornish life, set apart from England with practices and a dialect all its own. Fortunately, Gale doesn’t obfuscate the story transcribing accents, the feel of the place and people expressed through conversations and customs instead.

Laura is a washerwoman and her strong arms and work ethic are lively on the page, little Charles with his spectacles and lack of sporting prowess filling her heart with love and worry.

Charles grows, navigates the rough and tumble childhood of Launceston, all the while realising he is not like the other boys. He is quiet and studious, fascinated by the rhythm of language, a writer and musician, disinterested in girls as any more than friends.

As he grows he finds there are other men like him, and his mother instinctually knows, without quite putting her finger on anything, that it is unlikely she will be a grandmother.

There are beautiful vignettes throughout the book. Charles’ friendships and relationships of convenience, the Launceston prisoners of war and evacuees occupying Laura whilst he is at war. Throughout the story, and particularly after Charles’ war, there is the deep bond between mother and son.

Mother’s Boy is a nicely woven, gentle tale of an ordinary life in extraordinary times, a tale of a boy born into hardship with no sense of self-pity, raised by his mother to be who he shall be. It’s quite lovely, and encourages further reading around Causley’s work and life after meeting him in fiction.

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World War I breaks out, Laura falls pregnant, Charlie goes to fight, and Charles Causley is born.

This really is a story of events, and it would be easy to fix a timeline on the narrative because the author has based it on real people and pivotal events in their lives. The magic happens though when Gale takes his inspiration from lines of poetry or fragments of Charles’ diary and gives him, and Laura, a rich and poignant life.

Set mostly in Cornwall, we are immersed in Cornish life, set apart from England with practices and a dialect all its own. Fortunately, Gale doesn’t obfuscate the story transcribing accents, the feel of the place and people expressed through conversations and customs instead.

Laura is a washerwoman and her strong arms and work ethic are lively on the page, little Charles with his spectacles and lack of sporting prowess filling her heart with love and worry.

Charles grows, navigates the rough and tumble childhood of Launceston, all the while realising he is not like the other boys. He is quiet and studious, fascinated by the rhythm of language, a writer and musician, disinterested in girls as any more than friends.

As he grows he finds there are other men like him, and his mother instinctually knows, without quite putting her finger on anything, that it is unlikely she will be a grandmother.

There are beautiful vignettes throughout the book. Charles’ friendships and relationships of convenience, the Launceston prisoners of war and evacuees occupying Laura whilst he is at war. Throughout the story, and particularly after Charles’ war, there is the deep bond between mother and son.

Mother’s Boy is a nicely woven, gentle tale of an ordinary life in extraordinary times, a tale of a boy born into hardship with no sense of self-pity, raised by his mother to be who he shall be. It’s quite lovely, and encourages further reading around Causley’s work and life after meeting him in fiction.

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