A Perfectly Good Man

Patrick Gale

A Perfectly Good Man

When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy's reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest. The personal stories of his wife, children and lover illuminate Barnaby's ostensibly happy life, and the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby's repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous. 3.6 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
A Perfectly Good Man

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 416
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication March 2012
ISBN 978-0007313471
Publisher Fourth Estate
 

When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy's reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest. The personal stories of his wife, children and lover illuminate Barnaby's ostensibly happy life, and the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby's repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous.

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Reviews

The Spectator

Charlotte Hobson

One of the unusual achievements of this book ... is to convey — very simply, and utterly plausibly — how a faith such as Barnaby’s adds a layer of hope and joy to his experience of the world. Evangelising was obviously not Patrick Gale’s intention. It is no mean achievement, however, to create a world in which Barnaby’s sense of ‘the distinct possibility of God’ seems, by the end of the book, quite natural and almost attractive even to this godless reviewer.

17/03/2012

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The Guardian

Salley Vickers

The strength of this novel lies in its capacity to convey ordinariness authentically: ordinary love, ordinary failure, ordinary belief, ordinary, everyday tragedy, which of course in its particular manifestation is never "ordinary". Gale is a writer whose very facility makes him an easy read. This can mean that his subtle moral and psychological insights can be overlooked, which is a pity, as most of us – for better or worse – lead just such ordinary lives.

09/03/2012

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The Observer

Julie Myerson

At his best, Gale is an effortlessly elastic storyteller, a writer with heart, soul, and a dark and naughty wit, one whose company you relish and trust. In fact you feel you would believe anything he told you – and if I have a small complaint, it's that he sometimes doesn't quite seem to realise it, doesn't trust in his own genuine power. Now and then he writes a little too hard, too carefully or too deliberately … But it's a minor quibble in a novel which managed to upset and uplift me in equal measure, and which kept me company – and kept me guessing – right through to its slightly bitter and heartfelt end.

11/03/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Viv Groskop

Gale gently balances a complicated historical jigsaw and a discussion of what it means to be a good person. There is a moral at work here: "Please don't feel you always have to be good." Luckily the novel doesn't obey the moral. A heartfelt, cleverly constructed read.

18/03/2012

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The Times

Kate Saunders

Warm and humane, this novel is beautifully written.

31/03/2012

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The Sunday Times

Francesca Angelini

The snapshots come in no linear order — there’s “Barnaby at 52”, praying for his drug-addled adopted son, and “Dorothy at 34”, coming to the painful realisation that she will always have to share her husband — but they build to create a convincing, moving account of man’s struggle with faith, marriage and morality.

01/04/2012

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The Independent

Jonathan Gibbs

Each chapter comes with a title giving a character's name and an age, but as these are arranged anything but chronologically, it takes time to work out exactly when the events occurred. Gale's jumping around in time and perspective is an intricate, circling dance around this central figure of the priest. He acquires a wife, Dorothy, a daughter, Carrie, and an adopted Vietnamese son, but Gale holds off giving him real depth for much of the novel.

11/04/2012

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