Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale


This week saw the publication of Patrick Gale’s latest novel, Take Nothing With You. I had previously enjoyed his Costa shortlisted novel, A Place Called Winter, so was excited to have the opportunity to read a review copy of his latest work, which tells the story of a man and the childhood he leaves behind.

We first meet Eustace as a man in his fifties who is experiencing two very conflicting emotions. We learn that Eustace is seriously ill, and about to undergo radiotherapy treatment. But as well as contemplating his health and mortality, he has also fallen in love for the third time. His relationship with Theo is a modern one, having met him online and yet to see him in person, and he agonises over whether to share his diagnosis. By his side is his friend Naomi, who offers him support and an mp3 player containing cello music. This is one of the few items he takes with him into the lead-lined treatment room, with its message to ‘bring nothing with you that you wouldn’t mind leaving behind’ the first instance in which the titles relevance becomes clear. And as he settles for his treatment, he listens to the music which awakens memories from childhood, and it is from this point that we see Eustace grow up, and see the significance of music throughout his life.

The reader is taken back to Eustace’s childhood in Weston Super Mare, where we see a boy who is finding his feet, and discovering more about himself. His mother suggests that he take up music lessons, and after initially playing the clarinet circumstances lead him to switch to cello, which becomes a major part of his life. His lessons help him through the challenges that life brings, particularly those concerning family relationships with his parents marriage far from idyllic. In addition to his music, Eustace also discovers his sexuality, and this makes up a key part of his journey. This is a beautifully written coming of age tale which explores life in all its complexity, and emphasises the power of music. There were lots of details regarding the classical music elements and the author’s experience can clearly be seen here and this gives the story and the characters authenticity, so readers with a particular interest in this style of music will probably take even more from this than I did. Eustace’s journey made for an engrossing read which explores the transition from childhood into adulthood, a story which is filled with emotion, insight and honesty.

Fans of Patrick Gale’s writing will no doubt enjoy Take Nothing With You which is a moving story of love and music told with heart. It was published on 21st August 2018 by Tinder Press, with thanks to Georgina Moore for providing a proof copy for review.

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