Pictures at an exhibition

Patrick Gale’s novel has been widely acclaimed.  It follows the fortunes of a family backward and forward in time, as the famous artist mother suffers from mental illness.  Dealing with families, sanity, artistic ability, death and grieving, and the like, it is notable because several of the key characters are Quakers or brought up Quaker.  As Sarah said, its the sort of book that you wish you could just start again on.  The ending is particularly clever.

Patrick Gale is enormously sympathetic to Quakers and has clearly done his research in all sorts of ways.  What is difficult is whether he has the nub, the spirit, what it feels like to be in a spiritual community.  For at least two Quaker readers it slightly feels like someone who has heard something described but not felt it, in two regards, the frustrations of community underpinned by the quiet, loving effects of worshipping together, and our subtle, anarchic but not absent ‘discipline’.

As a book its great and as a taster for Quakerism too.  I just hope that those who read it, try Quakers and get a sense of the broader picture.

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