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THE WHOLE DAY THROUGH by Patrick Gale
I had previously read "Notes from an Exhibition" by this author and quite enjoyed it so when I found this book on the bookcrossing shelf in Derby I grabbed it to add to my collection that would come on holiday with me.
The think I have enjoyed about Gale's book is his ability to really capture characters and make you feel you know them. This book , a bit like the previous one I read has a very simple story but that is almost beside the point because it is the characters who are what lead the story.
This is very simple as I said. Laura has lived away from home but has had to return to look after her mother. Her father has died and her mother , although mentally very agile has had a bad fall and broken her hip which means she is restricted in her physical abilities and need a live in carer. The mother or Mummy as Laura calls her was a very high up and well known academic in virology. Laura is able to work at home as she is a freelance accountant.
As we g through the day we have flash backs to Laura's life before when she was a student and in Paris so we get fed tidbits of information to help us learn about Laura and her previous relationships.
Running parallel with Laura's story is Ben who is married to Chloe. His mother has also recently died and so he has returned to the family home to support his younger brother Bobby who has Down's syndrome as Bobby has been badly hit emotionally by his mother's death. Chloe and Ben have been having strains in their marriage and this living apart has meant Ben has drifted further apart while Chloe appears to still feel for him.
The added complication is that Ben and Laura were an item at University and this is where the book comes in as Laura and Ben meet again after all these years.
Professor Jellicoe who is also 'Mummy' is amazing as a character. She is a naturist and is still out with secateurs in the rain naked. Laura watches amused and slightly jealous of her zest for life and her exhilaration she gets from being out in the elements naked. She is still very with it and quite a strong determined character despite having to rely on Laura for some things physical.
Laura seems to me to be quite a kind and gentle soul but someone who has missed out on finding her life partner through various things beyond her control which become evident during the novel.
Ben again is a very caring person, he works in an area of medicine which is not in the least 'romantic' or 'exciting' as he works in a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases which is hardly glamorous. He took a jump down in salary and position to return to care for Ben which can't have been an easy choice.
Chloe, Ben's wife was the glamorous model at the university where, Ben and Laura met and had their relationship. Ben married Chloe after Ben and Laura split up. She didn't want children but now does and can't so wants to adopt a child with Special needs. Ben is not keen and this forces him to question his whole marriage. Chloe is a bit of a non character but is portrayed as pleasant and still in love with Ben despite his cooling feelings.
I think it is the interaction and observation of the characters that make the book. The day to day routine of their lives down to what Laura and Mummy do for breakfast and how Mummy has to have help with the bath and which stages Laura has to help. Little things like Laura pointing out that Mummy won't press the button to lower and raise the cushion for her bath which she quite easily could and how she says the same thing whenever she is raised from the bath. The sorts of everyday minutae that seem familiar yet may not actually be part of our life but make us feel we are there haring their day as we can so easily picture the scene.
The relationship between Ben and Bobby is also familiar yet isn't. They are brothers and one has Down's but they are two men sharing a house with jobs and sexual relationships. Bobby is gay and brings home his boyfriend who is big and gentle and kind. We see the relationship between the brothers changes as Bobby gets over his mother's death and begins his own sexually active relationships under Ben's watchful eye.
The story is set in one day, hence the title but it isn't obvious as there are flash backs and memories that also float in to the story so that we have a greater understanding of that day's events and how the characters interact and inter relate.
It isn't a very happy story as there is so much loss, loss of health, loss of family and loss of love but when I read the notes at the back which included a Q & A session with the author and was quite surprised to read that he was surprised at how sad it turned out and that is why he allowed bobby to have a nice happy relationship. I always thought authors knew where their book was going or planned it out before hand where this appeared that the novel almost had a life of its own and guided the author.
Despite the fact that the book is not a happy one I did enjoy it. It was never depressing as the characters had a sense of humor about some of the situations. Neither Ben nor Laura ever seemed to resent the fact that their lives were taken over by having to care for a family member . They accept it and get on with it because they love and care for the person.
Ben and Laura's relationship never has a chance as neither will sacrifice others for their own happiness. They both have faults but their faults do not include selfishness and so they were doomed from the outset it seems to me on both occasions for different reasons. You do wonder when you finish reading; if Laura knew what her mother had done back in the distant past would she still feel as she does about her now. I can't say more as it would spoil the story but it did make me think.
Yes it is not a difficult book to read as the author writes in an easy style. The chapters are short and it is obvious when the chapter changes that the story has moved to a new character or time or place. It is easy to understand the characters, their everyday lives and their feelings.
It is a book that left me looking for more and was surprised when it ended as there were quite a few more pages. These pages were the Q&A session with the author, a short life history and his top eleven books which seem very varied. Then we have a guided walk through Winchester which is where the book is set. After that are a few page of other books by the same author and then other books suggested by the author written by others that are on the same theme as this one.
This is a book that makes you think about decisions and how they affect the rest of your life; how things that happen to others might affect your life and also about duty and caring for your family and responsibility for others and how all these things can change your life and its direction in an instant.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
I had never heard of Patrick Gale until I read a review of one of his books on Dooyoo and was then prompted to find out more about him and read one of his novels - The Whole Day Through.
I found out that Patrick Gale is a British author who lives in Cornwall and was educated in Winchester and Oxford. He has written several novels and has been on the Richard & Judy book list. I chose The Whole Day Through because I heard a snippet of it on an audio books website and thought it sounded interesting.
This is essentially a story of different kinds of love and loyalties. Laura is a 40 something woman who has led an independent life, most recently in Paris. She loves her job as an Accountant and although she has had several lovers she is still single. At the beginning of the book we learn that Laura has had to return to England to look after her mother who is suffering from osteo arthritis and needs help to enable her to continuing living at home. Whilst taking her mother on a hospital visit in Winchester Laura bumps into Ben, her love from University. Ben is now married to Chloe but has used the excuse of helping his brother Bobby, who has Downs Syndrome, to reassess his marriage and so is also staying in Winchester instead of being at his home in London. The story follows their emotional journey over the course of a day. Will Laura and Ben be able to take the second chance that fate is offering them of being together forever?
The book is written in chapters that alternate between Laura and Ben, starting in the morning and ending in the evening. I liked this because it gave me a good picture of both their lives at the same time.
There are only 5 main characters in this book as follows:
In some ways I felt sorry for Laura as she had clearly missed out on being with the love of her life through circumstances and misunderstanding when she was younger. However, I admired her courage, loyalty and love for her mother that prompted her to leave lifestyle she loved in order to help her mother through a difficult part of her life. The situation is obviously difficult for her but she tries to treat her fiercely independent mother with the right mix of compassion, humour, love and understanding.
Dr Jellico is Laura's mother. She is a Doctor of Virology, a very clever and independent lady who comes across as rather a cold person, not good at showing her emotions. Her body is failing but her mind is as sharp as ever, which is making it very difficult for her to come to terms with not being able to do all the usual every day things without help. The author gave a good portrayal of a clever woman struggling to maintain her dignity and independence while her body was cruelly letting her down. Although Harriet appears to be rather cold towards her daughter there were moments where I felt that she appreciated what Laura was doing by moving in with her and recognised the fact that without Laura she would probably have to go into a nursing home.
Ben is in his forties and has been married to Chloe for several years but Chloe wants children and this has brought problems in their marriage to a head. He tells Chloe that he needs to spend some time with his brother in Winchester to give him time to think. I thought that Ben came over as rather an indecisive character, he couldn't seem to make a decision about Laura while they were at University and is now having trouble committing fully to Chloe when she wants to start a family. I found that I was getting a bit annoyed with him about this.
Bobby is Ben's brother and has a rare form of Down 's syndrome. He also happens to be gay which adds another dimension to his character. The author successfully helps the reader to understand how people with Down 's syndrome are still ordinary people with normal requirements and needs from life, including a sex life. Patrick Gale also gives an insight into the relationship between Down's syndrome adults and their families in as much as it can be easy to over protect them and treat them as children, stifling their right to an independent life as far as possible. I liked Bobby, he seemed very laid back and full of fun, ready to meet life head on and enjoy it.
Is Ben's wife and doesn't feature as a character in her own right, just as an extension of Ben and as a memory of Laura's so I didn't really get to know much about her except that she clearly loves Ben and doesn't seem to realise that he is having problems with their marriage.
I found this book to be quite different to others that I have read. The author confronts several issues such as Down's syndrome, homosexuality and sexually transmitted diseases head on with direct language which some might find offensive. However, when I thought about it I actually found it quite refreshing that such matters were discussed candidly and with a touch of humour to soften them.
I thought the subject of Laura's mother trying to cope with her failing body whilst her mind was still as alert as ever was covered sensitively. The author also shows the effect that elderly, frail parents have on their children and how they often find it difficult to come to terms with being the carer instead of the one being cared for. Laura has to do lots of things for her mother that are difficult for her emotionally, like bathing her mother, helping her to the toilet , putting her to bed at night. These are all things that a mother does for a child but eventually the roles are reversed. It must be a very sad thing for an adult child to witness especially if your parent has previously been very strong and independent. It made me think about my own parents, who at the moment are fit and able but that could all change in the next few years and I wondered how I would cope - hopefully with strength, compassion and humour like Laura.
The chance meeting of Ben and Laura after 20 years was interesting as obviously they had both changed physically and it made them rather shy with each other at first. However, they soon realise that the attraction they felt all those years ago is still there and shows that first love never really dies. However, their present lives and loyalties make life more complicated than it was 20 years ago.
I did get slightly lost on occasions between what parts of the story where happening now and what were memories but that may have been just me not paying full attention to what I was reading late at night and a little recap soon sorted that out.
I enjoyed this book although I thought it came to rather an abrupt end, I was left wanting more, which I suppose isn't a bad thing. The story didn't end as I had envisaged which was good as usually I am able to predict the ending of the books I read which can make them seem a bit pointless.
My appetite has definitely been whetted by this Patrick Gale book and I will be looking out for others that he has written so if anyone has any recommendations please let me know.
I received The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale as a Birthday present from a friend who has very similar reading taste to me. We share all our books so I know she will be waiting for it to come her way now that I have finished it.
Patrick Gale was born in 1962. He was educated at the Choir College in Winchester and also New College, Oxford. These locations are both used in The Whole Day Through. His first novel was The Aerodynamics of Pork which was printed in 1985, he has written several novels since but the only one I was aware of was Notes From An Exhibition (2007). The Whole Day Through was published in 2009.
Laura Lewis is a self-employed accountant. She has an independent life residing in the romantic capital Paris. Unfortunately the deteriorating physical health of her aging mother, an eminent virologist, Professor Jellicoe leads to her having to return to Winchester to take up the role of carer.
Ben has also had to return to Winchester to ensure the emotional well-being of his brother Bobby who suffers from Mosaic Downs Syndrome. His beautiful wife has stayed in London awaiting his return to his prestigious medical position and to continue the adoption process that she has set her heart on.
Ben and Laura meeting by chance, many years after their teenage romance, demonstrates to them both how their lives have altered but also makes them think about the different existence that they might have had.
The author has used the theme of one day to craft this novel. I do not mean that the events are set over a period of 24 hours but that he has used chapter headings to reflect the times of day from the first Early Morning Tea through Afternoon Nap etc. This gives the story a beautiful flow as you are reading it, it felt elegant and sedate but not slow.
The book contains very few central characters. They are all excellently described and achieve real personalities. Laura is hiding deep sadness from her disappointing love life; she comes across as an alluring, mature woman who obviously carries great sensitivity. I felt very emotionally attached to her and wanted her life to sparkle and to gain some great happiness. She was willingly taking on the role of carer to her mother but she was aware that she was shielding herself from life.
Ben feels great responsibility for his brother upon the death of their mother. However he soon finds that his brother is relishing the opportunity to spread his wings and control his own life. This leaves Ben time to contemplate his own life and what he wants from the future. He is an admirable man who you respect but also wish has more personal strength.
Professor Jellicoe is a dauntingly intelligent woman who is being let down by the onset of osteoporosis. Her mind is as sharp as ever but her desire to continue her naturist lifestyle is proving tricky for her daughter to manage. She is more acutely aware of her daughter's emotional state than Laura realises. As you progress through the book you warm to her character but wish she had been a more conventional parent for Laura's benefit.
Bobby, Ben's brother, is an interesting portrayal of someone with a disability who has had their lives held back by the overprotection of their parents. His brother helps him develop his own life and become the mature person that he can be.
The novel is set around Winchester with frequent mentions of time spent at college in Oxford. These are effectively described and I presume the author is using his own experiences to provide a realistic location background.
The peaceful ebb and flow of this novel examines losses we may all face at some point in our lives. There is the loss of opportunities never taken or opportunities that are denied us. There is the story of loss of love, regrets about relationships that were allowed to fall by the wayside and finally there is loss of health and independence, occurrences that affect both the sufferer and their families. These are all brought together sensitively and with a real flair for story telling.
The other aspect that I thought was thoughtfully handled was the weight of responsibilities in our lives and how most of us feel that decisions made in our lives cannot always be just for ourselves, there are nearly always other people that we consider.
I was engrossed in this book from the first page and read it quickly. There was no action and it wasn't written with cliff-hangers where I desperately wanted to know what happened next. It was written in a style that was delightful and soothing to read without being boring. I soon felt involved with the characters and was interested in their lives.
The only disappointment I had was that I was reading this and thoroughly enjoying it and it suddenly ended. The novel runs for 237 pages but in the copy I had there were author's notes and information about Winchester at the back. I hadn't realised this and so I thought I still had another 40 pages of story left!
Before I started this book I expected it to be a pretty standard chick-lit novel which I thought I would enjoy. However I found it a more thought-provoking read than I expected, it was moving without being slushy and entertaining without being laugh out loud funny. I would certainly recommend it.
The Whole Day Through is a story about Ben and Laura, two childhood sweethearts who meet again later in their lives when they are both 40-somethings and the story basically tells of the complications that can arise from these types of chance meetings.
The book is called The Whole Day Through as each chapter of the story is split up into specific segments of the day. For example the first chapter revolves around breakfast time whilst the middle of the book is set in the middle of the afternoon. I think this was quite an interesting way to structure a book and it seemed to work quite well.
Each alternative chapter is specific to either Laura or Ben. For example if chapter one is about events happening in Ben's life, then chapter 2 will be about Laura, chapter 3 about Ben and so on..
Laura is unmarried and has recently moved from Paris to look after her frail mother. Ben is in a situation not so different, as he is caring for a brother who is affected by Down's Syndrome. Ben is however married and therefore any coming together of Ben and Laura is not so straightforward.
I enjoyed this book a fair amount. One thing that really let the book down in my opinion was the lack of involvement with the main characters. I just felt like I never really got to know either of them. Even by the end I didn't feel very much simply because I didn't know either of them with any real depth.
In terms of the story of this book - there was nothing new or novel about the story, but it did flow well and it was not told badly. The language used was easy to follow throughout and all in all, it was readable. The end of the story and what happens to Ben and Laura was not what I expected and so it was rather nice to be surprised by events which concluded the story.
To summarise, this made for good and pleasant summer reading, but was nothing special or outstanding.
Author: Patrick Gale
Price: Amazon (new) £4.33; Amazon (used) £0.84
I found this to be the least enjoyable of Patrick Gales' books to date. It contained none of the atmospheric and evocative descriptions of Cornwall that I love, the plot was over simplified, and many of the characters lacked depth. More than anything, I felt that it lacked the wit and humour of previous books.
Set in Winchester, the title of the book reflects the plot, which is set around the events of one single day, and the chance meeting of two ex-lovers.
Laura is in her forties, and after university has led a successful and rather bohemian life in Paris. She returns to Winchester to look after her elderly mother, an academic and a naturist who is physically frail but mentally as sharp as she has ever been. Ben is a very successful doctor who abruptly quits his consultant's job in London to look after his adult brother Bobby, who has Down's Syndrome, is gay and also lives in Winchester.
Laura and Ben had a very intense relationship at university, and a chance meeting in the hospital rekindles their romance. Misunderstandings, domestic responsibilities and ghosts of the past all serve to get in the way of True Love. The most important of these is Ben's wife, who is unaware that she is no longer loved and seems to be unsure that Ben has even left her. Ben himself does not seem very clear on the matter either !
Described as "a bittersweet romance", the story has a typical Gale-esque twist at the end which will probably take the reader by surprise, but first you will have to plough your way through a lot of memories and scene setting that seem to have little relevance to the romance.
I felt that the first half of the book took too long to rather clumsily set the scene, looking back to the youth of the two main characters, and examining the challenges that they have had to face over the past 20 years. The reader gets no sense of the setting; there are no detailed descriptions of Winchester and its surroundings, and Gale misses the opportunity to impress the reader with the prose that makes his previous novels special. The plot is, quite frankly, dull and there is no obvious climax to the story that I could recognise.
I failed to engage with any of the main characters, and felt that this was because of the detailed but unemotional descriptions of their past lives. The connection of current emotion was never visible to the reader. The problems that Laura and Ben had to deal with were thrust in the readers face from the first page, rather than evolving as surprising discoveries, as Gale did marvellously in 'A Sweet Obsession'. Descriptions of the naturist lifestyle were interesting, but somewhat irrelevant to the story, and although the creation of a gay Down's Sydrome character had a lot of promise, Bobby's character was never developed enough to live up to its potential. Equally, the character of Laura's mother (rather irritatingly called 'Mummy' throughout the book) was underdeveloped. Gale missed the opportunity to examine the torture of a very fine academic mind trapped in a failing body - instead making Mummy a cold character, who cared very little for family or friends, but never explained why. Mummy's naturism could have made her an humorous, witty and endearing character, but all of these opportunities were missed.
Only at the very end of the book does Gale show signs of the writer his fans love, and the quality of writing we have come to expect. As Laura walks the street of Winchester at dusk, I suddenly found that the prose began to flow, that I had empathy for Laura, and I looked forward to reading more. Just as I began to engage with the whole story, I turned the page ... to find the book had come to a rather abrupt end.
I was left with a feeling of disappointment. It looks as if Gale churned this one out to make a quick buck, rather than making it a work of love.