‘Rough Music’ tells the tale of two English families

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Last summer when I was in London , I went to a wonderful little independent gay bookstore there (Gay’s the Word) and told the proprietor that I reviewed books in the States.

I then asked him to pick out a few titles for me that featured some of his favorite British authors. I picked up several books there and for some reason some of them fell through the cracks until now. “Rough Music” is one of them. A story that crosses over 30 years, it unfolds as it tells two stories of two families spending a vacation at the same beach house on the coast in Cornwall , England .

Will, a 40-year-old bookstore owner in England is the center of the first family. He is a good son, takes care of his mother and father and loves his sister and her family. Will is given the holiday as a birthday gift from his sister Poppy. Will decides to take his parents (his mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s), his nephews and brother-in-law (with whom, we learn, that he is having an affair). You can probably predict the outcome of this situation. What happens afterwards is a rebirth and rebuilding of Will’s life.

The book switches back and forth between Will’s story and that of a young boy named Julian. Julian’s father is a governor (warden) of a prison in England . Julian and his family live at the prison and Julian is well known to all the prisoners – he is even friends with some of them. When a prisoner escapes, Julian’s father must cut short their vacation in Cornwall leaving his son with his wife and brother from America there. An affair quickly erupts between wife and brother-in-law and more of the story unfolds.

Often times, books where two stories are going on simultaneously are very hard for the author to pull off and the reader to comprehend. The stories are hard to follow and neither develops as individuals. Gale, however, pulls this off seamlessly. The two stories are easy to follow and eventually meld into one well-told saga. The character development is superb and the stories believable and interesting enough to hold your attention page after page. You care about the characters and can’t wait to see what happens to them next.

“Rough Music” is Patrick Gale’s first novel that has gained any acclaim in the U.S. This book might be a little hard to get your hands on given it is a few years old, but find it. It is an excellent novel and would say that if you only read one book this year – read this one. It is available at local bookstores, online and at the Nashville Public Library.

“Rough Music”
by Patrick Gale
Ballantine Books, 384 pp., $14.95