Once again Patrick Gale has bastioned his position of being (in my opinion anyway) Britain’s greatest living author. I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Take Nothing With You and devoured the text in a couple of sittings. As usual, I didn’t want the story to end and now I find myself in that familiar situation where after having read something wonderful, anything else just won’t do, so in an effort to ease myself back into the world of fiction I am revisiting his back catalogue (all of which have just been reprinted by Tinder Press).

I’m not one for long winded reviews so, without giving too much of the plot away, Take Nothing With You opens windows into the past and present lives of the book’s central character Eustace, from the ozone scented postcard feel of 1970s Weston-Super-Mare and the bohemian charm of Bristol’s Clifton enclave, up to present day London and online dating disasters. Isolated in a radiation chamber awaiting a dose of radiotherapy, the adult Eustace, armed with nothing more than an Mp3 of his best friend Naomi’s cello recitals for company, takes a long, reflective gaze back to a series of events from his childhood that helped shape who he is today. Drab upbringing in an OAP residential home in Weston, enigmatic cello lessons in Clifton, parental disharmony and betrayal, burgeoning sexual awareness and experimentation, educational disappointments and life changing visits to residential courses in the Scottish borders are all part of the jigsaw of Eustace’s unconventional childhood.

The author’s love of classical music, particularly the cello (he’s a keen player himself) features heavily, and while I’m not exactly ‘a classical music nut’ myself, I found that it didn’t put me off one bit. On the contrary, I was drawn in by the author’s descriptive use of language to help the reader understand how, for example, things such as posture, the mood of the player or the type of strings or bows used can affect the sound and shape of the notes produced….so much so that at times I had to remember to keep breathing and relax my shoulders, especially when Eustace was attempting to play some of the more technically challenging pieces. It was almost as if the cello became the main character!

Anyway – simply put, if you’re a fan of Patrick Gale then you won’t be disappointed by Take Nothing With You…..and if you haven’t already read anything by him (why the hell not?) this is as good a starting point as any. Enjoy.

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