Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, Rough Music is a novel of one family at two defining points in time. Seamlessly alternating between the present day and a summer thirty years past, its twin stories unfold at a cottage along the eastern coast of England.
Will Pagett receives an unexpected gift on his fortieth birthday, two weeks at a perfect beach house in Cornwall. Seeking some distance from the married man with whom he's having an affair, he invites his aging mother and father to share his holiday, knowing the sun and sea will be a welcome change for. But the cottage and the stretch of sand before it seem somehow familiar and memories of a summer long ago begin to surface.
Thirty-two years earlier. A young married couple and their eight year-old son begin two idyllic weeks at a beach house in Cornwall. But the sudden arrival of unknown American relatives has devastating consequences, turning what was to be a moment of reconciliation into an act of betrayal that will cast a lengthy shadow.
As Patrick Gale masterfully unspools these parallel stories, we see their subtle and surprising reflections in each other and discover how the forgotten dramas of childhood are reenacted throughout our lives.
Deftly navigating the terrain between humor and tragedy, Patrick Gale has written an unforgettable novel about the lies that adults tell and the small acts of treason that children can commit. Rough Music gracefully illuminates the merciful tricks of memory and the courage with which we continue to assert our belief in love and happiness.
Gale (Tree Surgery for Beginners) is an English novelist with a particular gift for family dynamics. Cleverly structured and sophisticated in its treatment of time, his latest novel is an alternately sweet, touching and somber tale of a mildly dysfunctional English family. The book alternates between accounts of two family holidays spent in the same seaside cottage in Cornwall 30 years apart. The sturdy, reliable father, John Pagett, is "governor" (warden) of a British prison, which supplies young Julian with considerable offbeat excitement, particularly when a noted prisoner escapes. Frances, Julian's mother, is a repressed musician who seems to have merely settled for John and domesticity. Thirty years later, John is still much as he was; Julian has become Will and is unhappily gay, carrying on a doomed affair with brother-in-law Sandy; Frances is showing signs of incipient Alzheimer's. As the scenes alternate, Gale slyly enlarges his canvas, embroiling the younger Frances in a brief affair with herbrother-in-law. The domestic details and undercurrents of an English seaside holiday in the vastly differing social climates of the 1950s and '80s are stunningly caught, and the dialogue, whether parent-placid or suddenly gay-quarrelsome, is spot on. The conclusion, for both Will and his parents, brings a deserved glow of quiet reconciliation. The only thing that may slightly mar this highly intelligent and beautifully crafted novel for American readers is its very British emotional reticence, even if that does allow for myriad shades of delicate feeling.