Tree Surgery for Beginners

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9780002256124: Tree Surgery for Beginners

From the author of The Facts of Life comes a cunning mix of tragedy and comedy, featuring one man's journey to self-discovery. * As befits the hero of a modern fairy tale, Lawrence Frost has neither father nor siblings, and fits so awkwardly into his worldly mother's life, he might have dropped from the sky. Like many such a hero, he grows up happier with plants than people. Whilst he is straightforward, honest, and a doting dad, he can be a difficult, taciturn husband -- but he's the last person one would suspect of being a killer...* Waking one morning to find himself branded a wife-beater and under suspicion of murder, his small world falls apart as he loses wife, daughter, liberty, livelihood and, almost, his mind...* With a bold mixture of tragicomedy, harsh truth and sublime fantasy, Patrick Gale has created a vivid and compelling portrait of a man at odds with himself, and an extended family of friends and lovers trying to take its proper shape.

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Review:

Patrick Gale is an original--at once very old-fashioned and very modern. Not for nothing has he been called "the Barbara Pym of the liberated set." In his warm, subversive comedies, characters of all sexual identities and ambiguities dance through endless configurations and marvelously contrived plots. And this English author's eighth novel, Tree Surgery for Beginners, is as full of coincidence and pleasurable surprise as ever. It begins, however, with a shock to the reader's system: arborist Lawrence Frost returns home after a night in his beloved Wumpett Woods to signs of great violence. Worse, he himself is the culprit, having beaten his wife in a jealous rage. Now Bonnie has, quite sensibly, fled with their daughter, Lucy--but even as our tree surgeon determines to make things right, a burnt, dismembered body that could well be Bonnie's turns up.

As Gale paints in Lawrence's background, he also provides strong, instant portraits of his mother, Dora; her twin brother, Darius; his father-in-law, and their town. Barrowcester (pronounced "Brewster") is alas a place where Lawrence will never again be at home--even after mother and child turn up safe. Not to worry, though, since the author next sends him and Darius on a rollicking Caribbean cruise. As constraints are loosened all around--on the Paulina, in the English provinces, and in Chicago, where Bonnie and Lucy end up--Lawrence cannot escape his emotional limbo. But then Lala, a chanteuse of a certain age and uncertain gender, captivates him:

He could not remember having his thoughts so jangled by the suggestiveness of a clothed female form since he fell in love with his French teacher at ten and began to receive even poorer marks than usual.
Gale obviously adores his characters--including the possible transsexuals, definite murderers, and religious zealots--as much as he relishes working out his Shakespearean twists. (Tree Surgery for Beginners features the cameo appearance of a marauding but perhaps indecisive tiger.) Readers will be divided into those who delight in watching the author weave his people and plot strands together, elevating love over propriety, and those who consider him absolutely shameless. Few, however, can object to Gale's irreverent, bawdy vision of possibility and acceptance. --Kerry Fried

About the Author:

Patrick Gale was born in 1962 on the Isle of Wight. He was educated at Winchester and Oxford and now writes full time.

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Patrick Gale
Published by Flamingo
ISBN 10: 0002256126 ISBN 13: 9780002256124
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