Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale

I was first introduced to Patrick Gale when I swapped books with a fellow traveller in Scotland in 2001. I'd just finished Timothy Findley's Pilgrim and happily traded it for Gale's Rough Music. Mine was definitely the better half of the deal.

This morning I finished listening to Gale's The Whole Day Through [Clipper Audio; 4 hrs 45 min] and I already miss the protagonists. Sandra Duncan and Ed Stoppard perform the limited third-person narration as it alternates between Laura and Ben, both in their mid-forties. Laura, who is single, comes back to England from her home in Paris in order to care for her mother. Ben, who was Laura's lover when they were at university but has since married, has returned home to care for his brother after their mother dies. Ben's brother has Mosaic Down Syndrome -- and he's gay. Laura and Ben happen to bump into each other in the hospital where he works and where Laura has just dropped off her mother for an appointment. Will their second chance at romance succeed?

Ordinary lives become extraordinary when examined with loving precision; Gale does that well. The Whole Day Through is understated and melancholy, yet uplifting. It has left me thinking about the unintended effects that words can have on our lives. And thinking about Laura and Ben too, and what might lie ahead for them.

Gale's newest novel, A Perfectly Good Man, made the Green Carnation Prize shortlist this year.

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