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Patrick Gale at Off the Shelf Festival

Thursday, November 7, 2019

You might not know that I am a huge fan of Patrick Gale, because I've never reviewed any of his books on here, but over the years I've read a few of them. Plus he wrote my favourite book of all time, Notes From An Exhibition. It's about an artist, Rachel Kelly, who is found dead in her studio, witha series of unfinished paintings around her. It's told through those paintings, and through them the reader learns all about Rachel's husband and four children, as well as her past and life. It's brilliantly done, and I love Rachel and the family. I first read the book over ten years ago, when my friend Amy, who is an artist herself, pushed it into my hands.

It's about madness, and family, and family madness, all of which are things I love in a book. I think it's so cleverly done, and I also really like how there are queer characters who are just incidentally queer - their relationships aren't pulled apart for the reader. I would really recommend it if you've never read it. My original copy went missing a few years ago but if I ever see it in a charity shop I always buy it because I like to have spare copies to hand to give away to friends.

I saw a few weeks ago that Patrick was appearing at Sheffield's Off the Shelf Festival so I asked my friend Sarah if she would come with me. She also really loves Notes From An Exhibition. We both read it before we knew each other, so bonded over it! Sarah agreed, so we bought tickets and then made plans to get together during the day before the evening event.

The whole day was just ridiculous. On the way to Sarah's, my car started overheating and I limped to hers, then phoned my breakdown people. The rain was awful and the breakdown people were later than they thought they would be. Then the garage the car was taken to couldn't help me, so I had to drive very carefully back to Sarah's where I just abandoned the car. The rain was apocalyptic and it was so dark, so we got Sarah's husband Tom to take us into town for the event. We made it! It was stressful, but we made it!

Patrick was in conversation with a lady asking him questions. He's very eloquent and talked at length about his books, about his most recent book Take Nothing With You, about surviving the Aids crisis, about his screenplays, about his characters, about his early life. I could've listened to him talk for ages, because it was really lovely. Apparently there's going to be a film of Notes From An Exhibition which excites me very much!

I bought a copy of Take Nothing With You and then we joined the signing queue. It didn't take long to get to us. I had six books with me and Patrick signed each one and I told him how much Notes means to me. He was really kind and gracious and it more than made up for the disastrous day!

Here's some photos:

There were quite a few people there

Firth Hall was a really lovely venue

And here are all my signed copies! I really want to read them all immediately!

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