Renowned author Patrick Gale has his new novel Take Nothing With You coming out very soon (21 August 2018) and wey hey, I was one of the lucky ones to receive an advance copy.
This poignant read is subtle, insightful and raw. It focuses on 50 something Eustace who discovers ‘in rapid succession, that he was quite possibly dying and that he was falling in love.’ Diagnosed with cancer, he has to have radiation treatment which takes place in solitary confinement. As everything in the room is radioactive Eustace is told to ‘Bring nothing with you that you don’t mind leaving behind.’ This is a beautifully symbolic read as at the end of his treatment Eustace essentially leaves his difficult childhood behind.
As a child Eustace was a passionate cello player and the cello forms the backdrop of this book. As he goes into his radiation treatment he is given a cheap mp3 player full of cello music. Alone with nothing to distract him, the cello music draws Eustace back to his lonely adolescence; an adolescence where he grapples with his parents’ cold, detached marriage, the hypocrisy of class distinction and the changing nature of his friendships. To add to this Eustace is struggling to understand his own sense of uniqueness and sexuality.
As a reader and an adult, I really felt for Eustace as I was able to understand the complex relationships and situations that dramatically impacted his life. Yet as an innocent 13 year-old, he is not emotionally equipped to understand these complexities. Eustace as a child really touched me.
There is no doubt about it, this is a heartbreaking read. It was also very shocking at times, especially at the end. I don’t want to go into why as I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but it focuses on an appalling practice that went on in some circles in our society until not so long ago, and in some parts of the world still does.
Yet Gale’s unique writing style is not dark; rather it is a tender and insightful which I also found quite witty and beautiful.
My only criticism is that I do feel that Gale went into a bit too much technical detail with the cello descriptions at times. Dare I say, I found some of these passages a tad boring? However to be fair, I unfortunately don’t possess a musical bone in my body, so that might just be my ignorant interpretation…
Thank you Patrick Gale for giving us Eustace, as well as all the other beautifully diverse and flawed characters that help create Eustace’s heartfelt story. Thank you also to Tinder Press, especially Georgina Moore for providing me with an advance copy of Take Nothing With You.
Publication date of Take Nothing With You: 21 August 2018