Patrick Gale is a mocker. He is intoxicated with words and feeds upon them with a kind of manic relish. But he will not desecrate the thing he mocks. Barrowers may live in a narrow, smug, rich world but they are tough enough to survive shocks with imaginative politeness. The humour here is patient and kindly. The sheer funniness of Facing the Tank made me laugh out loud. Its optimism delighted me. I could very well believe that a New Jerusalem might indeed be green and pleasant.

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