Notes on Notes From An Exhibition

Posted by Lou. The time is 12.55pm here in London, UK.

In a random "here, read this" recommendation I spent the weekend absorbed in Patrick Gale's Notes From An Exhibition. The novel begins with the death of successful and well-known painter Rachel, a mother of four children and wife to Antony. As those left behind seek to understand more about her (nothing is known of her life before she arrived in the UK in early adulthood), a story of the family unravels with changing time and perspective - each chapter headed by the notecard of an item in a posthumous exhibition.

What makes the novel unique is the combination of Rachel being bi-polar - suffering serious bouts of mania and depression - and Antony being a Quaker - steady, even and always reliable. The writer is extremely empathetic, showing the effects of Rachel's bi-polar on herself and her family, including capturing the fact that it has been responsible for much of her greatest work and thus has a seductive pull for the artist.

The narrative style is one that draws the reader in and makes you want to keep turning the pages, but not for purposes of plot - rather the desire is to understand. Much of the family's past is foreshadowed, but as you have confidence that in time you will find out it isn't frustrating nor does it feel false as the device often can.

I would definitely recommend it as a read that is both easy and feels like a bit more than the average bestseller.

Bookmark note: I have a collection of bookmarks that I loosely customise to whatever I am reading. For this one I was using one I bought in Montreal that is of a local artist - when reading the novel of Rachel's later years producing mainstream art for tourists I couldn't help but feel a little bit sorry for the artist whose bookmark I was using. I guess that turned out to be an extremely appropriate choice.

One thought on “Notes on Notes From An Exhibition”

  1. Oooh this sounds great! I lvoe getting absorbed in a book like that.

    I think I am about a 1/3 of the way through 'The List', so maybe sometime in 2012 I will enjoy this one!!