Needing a new “holiday read” whilst in Cornwall I came across Patrick Gale’s new novel Notes from an Exhibition. Reading the “blurb” on the inside cover I was immediately drawn to the book because the major influence on one of the characters was mentioned as being his “Quakerly gifts of stillness and resilience”. The book is set mainly in Penzance and follows the story of an artist, Rachel Kelly, throughout her troubled life and the dramatic effect her life and death has on her husband, Anthony and their four children. The book is seen through powerful episodes, shown from the perspective of different characters. The chapters are not in chronological order but create a picture in layers, as the main character did within her paintings. Anthony’s strong Quaker beliefs and those of Rachel and the children are a prominent presence throughout the book. Scenes include Meetings for Worship and the themes of truth and light are also explored within the context of the Quaker faith of the characters. This is a frank and unreserved work which explores in depth the effect that bi-polar disorder has directly on Rachel at different stages of her life and the impact of this on her family and friends. The novel also includes exploration of heterosexual and homosexual sexuality and relationships and explores the effects of the sudden loss of family members. I felt that Patrick Gale handled these complex issues directly but sensitively and I found the book a very engaging read that was hard to put down from the first chapter.

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