Patrick Gale is another of my favourite authors and this is another book I had been squirrelling away for my holiday reading. Like Ann Tyler, Patrick Gale is an author I know will never let me down.
The protagonist of ‘A Sweet Obscurity’ is nine year old Dido. Orphaned as a baby Dido lives with her depressed Aunt Eliza and spends her weekends flitting between Eliza’s grubby council flat and the elegant home of Eliza’s estranged husband Giles and his partner Julia. When Eliza’s mother becomes ill Dido manages to surreptitiously extract money from Giles to enable Dido and a reluctant Eliza to make the trip to Cornwall.
Although a Sweet Obscurity begins in London it is primarily set in Cornwall, moving freely between the city and the rural splendour of the Cornish coast. Cornwall is a part of the country Mr Gale knows very well and his love and understanding of the area is clear. Cornwall is an integral part of the novel and as Eliza goes back to her roots, a story of facing the past and physical and psychological restoration begins.
The story is made up of lots of characters, all well developed and enjoyable to meet. Dido has a resourcefulness that is perhaps not representative of many nine year olds and some of the coincidences that occur as the novel moves towards its conclusion are maybe a little improbable. However it is such a good story that these things do not matter and because Patrick Gale is such a clever story teller he is able to weave together all the characters and complex relationships to make a satisfying whole.
Gale’s writing is always full of lovely phrasing and is pleasingly uncomplicated. This is a great holiday read, as it is fulsome enough (470 pages) to fill lazy days (especially if those lazy days are in Cornwall) However it is such an engaging read I would recommend reading it absolutely anywhere at all.