FICTION PICK OF THE WEEK
Patrick Gale, Tinder Press, $32.99
Before he became Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes was asked to name the poet he thought best suited to the job. His choice was Charles Causley, whose childhood and coming of age are richly fictionalised in Patrick Gale’s Mother’s Boy. Born during WWI, Causley was raised by a single mother, Laura, with an almost erotic devotion, his father Charlie having succumbed to tuberculosis after returning from the trenches. The complex, near-incestuous bond between mother and son is drawn with sharp-eyed affection, as is the small-town Cornish setting in which Causley grew up. The emergence of his poetic gifts possesses a strange folkloric quality that inhabits some of his verse. His discovery of his homosexuality and the clandestine pursuit of it – as a young coder for the Royal Navy in the Second World War – stands with the best queer literary fiction of a historical bent, illuminated as it is by Gale’s devilish wit and talent for both social observation and intricacies of character.