Tree Surgery for Beginners
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Bestselling British author Patrick Gale chronicles the misadventures of a misfit tree surgeon in this “modern-day myth of self-discovery” (The Guardian).
It was in the ancient cathedral city of Barrowcester that eight-year-old Lawrence Frost began his love affair with the trees that had “sprung up on the site of an ancient plague grave and unconsecrated resting place for the city’s outcasts.” And it is there that the thirty-two-year-old forester and arborist returns one night, after sleeping out in his truck in his beloved Wumpett Woods, to find blood staining the kitchen sink and floor of his farmhouse—his wife and daughter gone.
Lawrence is suspected of beating his wife, Bonnie, for cheating on him with an American architect. It appears Bonnie and their daughter, Lucy, have done the sensible thing and fled. But when a corpse turns up, burned beyond recognition, the police decide to comb Wumpett Woods in search of a second body. Soon Lawrence is branded a murderer and arrested.
Then Bonnie and Lucy turn up alive, and Lawrence is cleared. But he has lost his family. He takes a five-hundred-passenger cruise on the SS Paulina, where a chanteuse of a certain age—and uncertain gender—captivates him. Lawrence begins a new journey, a spiritual and erotic odyssey that takes him back to the buried secrets of his past and then onward toward the future.
From the English provinces to the Caribbean to America—and the giant redwoods of northern California—filled with Shakespearean twists and turns and happy coincidences, Tree Surgery for Beginners is a sprawling, Dickensian carnival of a book. With multiple viewpoints and cameo appearances that include a vacillating tiger, it sweeps readers along as Lawrence himself learns to move forward.
By turns moving and tragic, this is a triumphant novel of growth, love, and healing from the bestselling author of Notes from an Exhibition.
“An elegant romance that manages to be both playful and wise. In prose of sparkling precision, Gale serves up misadventures—satirical, farcical and tragic. With its subtle interplay of dark and light elements, Tree Surgery for Beginners is infused with a smiling, Mozartean sensibility, reminding us that we can “go so awry, break so utterly apart and still find the strength to continue.” —The New York Times
“A modern-day myth of self-discovery, involving transsexual cabaret singers, tigers and long-lost twins. Family is redemptive and romance is not dead in this engaging story.” —The Guardian
“Gale’s heady winter brew blows up a storm of sea-changes. . . . A very funny often sad, erudite, eclectic novel writ with style. Terrific.” —Time Out London
“The real horror in this thriller lies in the ways mistakes in love continue to unravel lives down through generations. Don’t be deceived by the title: this is one scary book.” —Los Angeles Times
“A readable, entertaining and . . . moving yarn.” —The Times (London)
“Gale’s energetic novel is a carnival of events in which credible characters find themselves in incredible situations.” —The Daily Telegraph
“One of [Gale’s] best: a fluently constructed narrative underpinned by excellent characterization. Running through it all is the theme of redemption; and the hero’s journey from despair to hope makes a stirring odyssey for the reader.” —The Sunday Telegraph
“With his interest in manners and class, his delicate observations of the intimacies of loving and dying and especially in his invention of a town called Barrowcester, Gale and Joanna Trollope map a similar terrain. Artifice abounds, so does wit, and mystery along with some nice grisly moments. Gale, though, is capable of some piercingly tender moments as all the characters come to some self-knowledge and redemption.” —The Sydney Morning Herald
“In this very fine novel Patrick Gale proves, yet again, that he is both an exceptionally acute observer of human nature and a storyteller of the first order.” —Barbara Gowdy
“Gale is at his most insightful in his descriptions of character, both of individuals and of the Frost family as a whole. Tree Surgery for Beginners is a comic thriller in which ‘family tree’ takes on new meanings.” —The Observer
“Witty, funny, poignant, and utterly absorbing.” —Patricia Duncker
“Readers will . . . delight in watching the author weave his people and plot strands together. . . . [An] irreverent, bawdy vision of possibility and acceptance.” —Kerry Fried, Amazon.com
“Gale fashions a patient, worthy transformation as Lawrence develops from a boy who does not understand his whole self to a man whose work as a tree surgeon is a metaphor for the growth of his soul and his family.” —Publishers Weekly
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.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly