I rather like the British novelist Patrick Gale: I like the way he thinks ‘outside the box’.
The Whole Day Through is, at first glance, about a relationship of missed opportunities and the obstacles imposed by family obligations.
Forty-something Laura isn’t very good at relationships but she’s been reasonably contented living in Paris (and who wouldn’t be, eh?) but she’s had to come back to Winchester to look after her elderly mother after she started having falls. And Ben, an old friend from Oxford with whom she had a very brief relationship, has had to move from London after his mother dies, to take on the care of his adult brother Bobby who has a mild form of Down’s Syndrome.
What complicates things even more for Laura is that her mother is a naturist, that is, she gets about at home without any clothes on. Professor Jellicoe is a former academic, once influential in Ben’s career, and she still has all her marbles. Although she knows that professional care is probably inevitable, she wants to enjoy the freedom to do her own thing as long as possible, and that constrains the choices that Laura has.
Ben, on the other hand, has an estranged wife called Chloe who is still fond of him, and as an HIV consultant in a local clinic, he knows just what Bobby is risking when he starts exploring his gay sexuality. So yes, it’s complicated, even though Laura and Ben are both quite sure that they were made for each other.
It’s not a long book, only five CDs which makes it under 300 pages in a print edition. Gale writes empathetically as he alternates between Laura’s and Ben narratives, and the characterisation of Professor Jellicoe and Bobby avoids the sort of stereotyping you might expect. Will Ben and Laura sort things out? The ending is not what I expected…
Author: Patrick Gale
Title: The Whole Day Through
Read by Sandra Duncan and Ed Stoppard
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC, 2010
Source: Kingston Library