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Love—common and uncommon, vengeful and transformational—is the theme of this superb collection from the bestselling author of Notes from an Exhibition.
From subtle tales of domestic unease to a story featuring a caravan that transports three generations of a family away from their small-town lives, author Patrick Gale proves in his second story collection that he is a master at mining the loneliness, yearning, and eternal optimism of the human spirit.
The lonely wife of a prison governor—and the only female on an inaccessible island—gets a lesson in angling from an inmate who will pay a high price in “The Lesson.” In “Saving Space,” a widower returns to a summer music festival to revisit bittersweet memories of his wife—and receives consolation from another woman’s ghost. In “Petals on a Pool,” a female author bonds with a male poet at a book convention in Hong Kong where no one has heard of them—until she sees something odd floating among the petals in the hotel’s pool. The puppy training lessons at the center of “Obedience” serve as the catalyst for the rekindled sex life of a couple when the husband is suspected of murder.
Gentleman’s Relish also features chilling tales of blood and revenge. In “Making Hay,” a senior citizen living in a retirement home conceives a diabolical payback in the form of family folklore told to her young grandchildren. And in “Cookery,” a son exacts a nasty retribution against his homophobic father when he whips up an extra-special dinner.
Some of these stories unfold like dreams—or nightmares—and others dissect with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Narrated with wit, glee, and surprising tenderness, this collection includes unsung masterpieces like “Hushed Casket,” in which a husband on his honeymoon discovers an old tea casket in an abandoned church that releases a macabre spirit, and suddenly, the homely spouse is transformed into an irresistible sex magnet.
Additionally included here are stories originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4, as well as “In the Camp,” which explores the childhood of Laura Lewis, the heroine of Gale’s acclaimed novel The Whole Day Through. With Gale’s sharp eye for detail and unerring ear for dialogue, this pitch-perfect, something-for-everyone collection is sure to lure readers in—and keep them hooked.
“Dark, witty and . . . moving . . . Gale is interested in power and the lack of it and his stories pull the reader in unexpected ways, offering worlds that are far from certain and where love or its absence can never be predicted.” —The Sunday Telegraph
“The short story form suits Gale’s ability to zoom in on the smallest nuances of a relationship.” —The Times (London)
“The stories confirm Gale’s ability to exploit the short story genre’s capacity to deliver a caffeinated hit. . . . [They] showcase his capacity for combining a light touch and a macabre sense of humour with an understated strength of human feeling.” —Metro
“Gale’s writing is sharply evocative. . . . [He] writes with such humanity and warmth in his novels that it comes as a surprise that these short stories are told in a different, darker voice.” —Daily Mail
“A hugely enjoyable collection which proves that the short story is still very much alive . . . Gale has a distinctive sense of humour and it is not unusual for something sinister to be lurking beneath the apparently unruffled and genteel surface of his narrative.” —Daily Express
“It provides further evidence of Gale’s stylistic deftness, insight and wonderfully eclectic range of interests … Even as rural life and perspectives dominate, other stories consistently tease out fresh territory.” —The Independent
“Vivid, believable characters . . . Gale has a light touch with social commentary but the undertones are often menacing.” —The Times Literary Supplement
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester, before attending Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of the United Kingdom’s best-loved novelists, his recent works include A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through, and the Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller Notes from an Exhibition. His latest novel, A Place Called Winter, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize, and the Independent Booksellers’ Novel of the Year award. To find out more about Patrick and his work, visit www.galewarning.org.