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A Perfectly Good Man

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  1,875 Ratings  ·  253 Reviews
The new novel from Patrick Gale, author of Richard & Judy-bestseller 'Notes from an Exhibition', returning readers to his beloved Cornish coastline.
Paperback, 405 pages
Published March 3rd 2012 by Fourth Estate (first published March 1st 2012)
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Lari Don
Oct 15, 2012 Lari Don rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
It’s almost possible to forget how wonderful Patrick Gale’s books are, because they aren’t showy or loud.
This book has a wonderful structure, heading back and forth along the lifeline of Barnaby, a parish priest (Anglican, I think not, Catholic, because he is married with a family.) This results in an odd patchwork effect – you often find out someone’s fate before you actually meet them for real as they enter Barnaby’s life or leave it. This patchwork is mesmerising, gorgeous and very intriguin
Nov 13, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
My favourite books are ones that I have to keep picking up when I know I should really be doing something else; those that as I approach the end I am torn between wanting to know how it all turns out but sad that I will have to leave the characters behind. Most importantly I have to care about the characters and ideally like at least one of them so that I can empathise with them as the story progresses. A Perfectly Goood Man did all of those things.

Although written in a gentle and easy to read
Dale Harcombe
Jan 07, 2015 Dale Harcombe rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I got as far as I was likely to get.About half way. The way it was told , with different people at different times of life, it was like opening a photo album to find all the photos muddled up. Afraid the quality of the writing wasn't enough to keep me motivated to continue reading, plus I didn't much care about any of the characters, largely because I never got time to settle down with them in a logical fashion. I know others have loved it , but it just wasn't for me.
Withdrawn from Liverpool Libraries.

Description: The apparent serenity of parish life in Pendeen and Morvah is disturbed when 20-year-old Lenny Barnes takes his own life in the presence of Father Barnaby Thomas, the charismatic, indefatigable local priest, whose enduring service has made him a popular member of his Cornish community.

Though Lenny′s death is publicly mourned, the tragedy continues to wound those closest to him, and its reverberations seem to threaten a fissure between the Parish an
Antony Heaven
Jul 20, 2012 Antony Heaven rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Patrick Gale has written many wonderful books and A Perfectly Good Man, published in 2011, is no exception. Set deep in Cornwall, this is a story that is told from multiple points of view as the bigger story that draws the different strands together gradually unfolds.

Gale’s Cornwall brings together 21st century themes in an ancient setting. His book is peopled by vicars and atheists and humanists and the undecided. His writing explores age-old themes of good and evil and faith and choice and of
I really wanted to like this book, it was an interesting concept for a novel but I never connected with any of this book or the characters. The book revolves around the community effects of Lenny’s suicide in front of a priest. This small community and the stories of past and present play out in this book. For me the people never felt real and I think that first began with Father Barnaby Thomas feeling to fake. Having grown up in a small town with a minister for a father I’ve seen how people rea ...more
Anne Bryson
Jul 27, 2012 Anne Bryson rated it it was amazing
I like the way Patrick Gale makes his characters seem so real. It is almost as if he loves them into being, even the unpleasant characters are dealt with understanding. With a light touch, Gale gets right under the skin of his main subjects. In this, the "good man" Barnaby is depicted with all his struggles, loves, intentions and weaknesses- if weaknesses they are as they do make us human. Dealing with the currently unfashionable subject of religion and belief, Gale manages to convey a deeper si ...more
Huw Rhys
Jun 14, 2013 Huw Rhys rated it really liked it
What a lovely book.

I don't usually like books that mess around with chronology, but this book's format of jumping around, backwards and forwards, through various of the characters' lives to introduce another important piece of the jigsaw works perfectly.

It's a story about life, death, love, spirituality, relationships, families and religion, all treated in a beautifully sensitive, gentle way.

It has extremely likeable characters, even though they are nearly all fatally flawed in their own little
Jan 02, 2017 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of book that reminds me why I belong to an actual real world, real people book club. I doubt if left to my own devices I would ever pick this book up and peruse its merits as a possible contender; but because others choose, this is what got handed out two weeks back. Patrick Gale swoon I am in love...............So good so so good.

The writing is honest, the details and nuances resonated deep into my core. Patrick Gale and I inhabit the same earth we orbit the same stars. It felt
Aug 07, 2012 Liz rated it liked it
Patrick Gale is a fantastic writer. He really brings his characters and story to life. I really liked his writing style and the many moral dilemmas and themes within this book. However, I was a bit frustrated with how neatly all the characters came together. I appreciated how lives are linked and the depth to which we all have our 'own story' but it was just a bit simplistic for me and a little predictable after a while. Some of the most interesting characters such as Modest where never really i ...more
Apr 20, 2016 Mandy rated it liked it
The book opens, very effectively indeed, with 20 year old Lenny, who has been paralysed in a rugby accident, deciding he would rather commit suicide than spend his life in a wheelchair. He calls in the parish priest to visit him, and much to Barnaby’s shock kills himself in front of him. The rest of the book is a moving and thought-provoking exploration of how Barnaby copes with this death and examines what it means to be a good man. Cleverly constructed, well-paced, and psychologically astute a ...more
Jul 05, 2012 Jules rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. Having read "Notes from an Exhibition" a few years ago & recently attended an author event with Patrick Gale I was in a hurry to read it. However the subject matter & plot didn't appeal so when I found myself engrossed in the life of a country priest I was surprised!
As much as anything I respected this novel for the way it was crafted. Each chapter was written from a different character's perspective & it went backwards & forwar
Jane Markland
Oct 19, 2012 Jane Markland rated it really liked it
Much like it's companion, Notes, this emotional story is just the kind of book I love to read. I have long been a fan of Patrick Gale's work and have read most of his books. Most gratifying for me is the constant themes of place (Cornwall), families, especially dysfunctional ones, and morals. So many of them lie within these pages and as ever are beautifully portrayed and described. Another of his continual themes is religion and Man's struggle within the confines of its boundaries and ethics. I ...more
Oct 10, 2016 Jane rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 03, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gentle spin up and down the musical scales of life.
The chapters pluck, seemingly randomly, at different time periods and different characters but it of course is seamlessly weaving itself into the complete musical score of one Barnaby Johnson - priest, husband, father, friend, fine example and holder of secrets...

Why hasn't this book won an award. (?) It is just the type of book that wins awards. Award winning books always seem to me to be the ones that force you to dip back into them the secon
Jul 06, 2012 Leonie rated it liked it
What this book accidentally ended up illustrating to me is the importance of being intelligent as well as well meaning. Obviously, with a title like that Gale is setting himself a challenge, and he tries to show that he knows it's challenging by showing his "perfectly good man" as imperfect and making mistakes but still being ultimately good. Barnaby ends up a shade too dim, self-satisfied and unreflective in my eyes, despite the effort made in his characterisation. Also, I was deeply annoyed by ...more
Oct 09, 2012 Helen rated it liked it
This is a story about a good man who did one 'bad' thing. It was one of those books that I quite enjoyed while reading but as I closed it at the end, thought it was a bit of a waste of precious reading time.

Patrick Gale has gone back and forth in time but very helpfully tells you not only the character narrating the chapter but his/her age as well. As these characters age through the book, the age of the central character, the priest, actually goes backwards from 60 to 8. Confused? I don't think
Nov 13, 2012 David rated it really liked it
I had forgotten that Patrick Gale is such a great storyteller. My review of his earlier bestselling novel "Notes from an Exhibition" was not entirely complimentary, so either I got that wrong or his latest book is so much better. Both are set in the same area of Cornwall, but this is not so much a sequel as a companion piece.

Like his earlier book, the narrative shifts around in time and person. The central character is Barnaby Johnson, the vicar of Pendeen and Morva, but we also follow various
Carolyn Mck
Jan 05, 2016 Carolyn Mck rated it liked it
This novel has some character connection with Gale’s previous book, Notes from an Exhibition, which I enjoyed. This is competently written, with interesting characters, and explores what it means to be good. Barnaby Johnson, a Cornish vicar, is present at the suicide of a young man, rendered paraplegic by a rugby accident. This incident, the wider significance of which becomes more obvious later in the novel, is a catalyst for doubt about his faith and what goodness means. The structure of the n ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Louise rated it really liked it
My third Gale book I think, and I've enjoyed them all.. I think he writes really well for his characters, a lot of whom are very simple.... and ordinary.

I like when they pull a character from another favoured book over, so was nice to have the familiarity there.

the different voices, and different times mingling the characters lives together gave a great narrative I thought,often I find it frustrating to know whats going to happen before it does, but this time, it suited the book perfectly.
Jun 11, 2016 Sarah.hiscoke rated it really liked it
Although this book constantly moves back and forward in time focusing on different people I think it works really well. It is a sensitive and intuitive read. Gale takes a tale and characters wiggling back and forward in time touching on events some fully and some just hinted at and some finally explained. Some other reviewers said they wanted more darkness, wanted to know more about 'Modest Carlsson'. I think that we are left to imagine is much more interesting. A book about faith, loss and love ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Nov 13, 2012 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it really liked it
Shelves: hardback
Written in a similar backwards and forwards in time style to Notes from an Exhibition - I enjoyed this a lot as well, though not quite as much as Notes, even though it featured a couple of characters from that book, as it didn't seem to have as much depth to it. I would happily have gone on reading past the end of the story though and will have to hope Gale puts some of these characters into a future book.
Nick Kinsella
Dec 12, 2012 Nick Kinsella rated it liked it
A perfectly reasonable book. Ticks through the gears as it goes. For me I never quite got the impression that Barnaby was entirely believable as a character, whereas Modest Carlsson stood out as a wickedly creepy guy. I suppose its easier writing bad guys as they're generally more interesting than good guys. I quite liked the 'moving the camera angle' approach to each of the chapters so that it fell on each of the characters throughout their lives.
Luke Devenish
Oct 06, 2013 Luke Devenish rated it it was amazing
Ah, this is another heartbreaker. And so DAZZLING structurally. I bow to that sort of cleverness. Love the cunningly non-chronological ordering of things - brings about some terrific pay-offs. Plus a wholly unexpected, yet highly satisfying collision with Notes From an Exhibition in the second half. Terrible twist for Dot at the end. Devastating. Subtle comeuppance for Modest. Had to think about that one afterwards. Lovely book.
David Stone
The constant jumping back and forth through time, and among characters at different ages, resulted in a less-than-joyful read; a pity, as Patrick Gale's prose are well wrought. The book would have worked for me if the storyline were set down in a traditional linear progression, only using flashbacks where necessary to fill in critical plot or character details.
Christoph Fischer
Jan 26, 2013 Christoph Fischer rated it it was amazing
A great read that raises a lot of moral questions and provides food for thought about religion, faith and euthanasia - but without a dry and lecturing approach. Yet again Gale is a great portrayer of character and provides a unique setting and a bunch of interesting people in this book. Very enjoyable.
Elizabeth Moffat
Aug 01, 2012 Elizabeth Moffat rated it really liked it
I loved this book! I have only read one other of patrick gale's work - notes from an exhibition and wasn't overally enamoured by it. However, this novel beautifully ensnares you with its host of intriguing characters, and the jumping back and forward in time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more of his work.
Jun 14, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
an interlinked book of stories around father barnaby johnson based mainly in cornwall and looks relationships and how different things are looked at and feel that the author does it well with compassion, well worth reading
Jul 19, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Being Cornish it is lovely to read a relatively accurate portrayal of a local area and its people. Found this hard to put down.
Karen Pine
Aug 06, 2012 Karen Pine rated it liked it
A lovely story that twists and turns and then all comes together again... I would have given it an extra half a star if the system allowed.
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Patrick was born on 31 January 1962 on the Isle of Wight, where his father was prison governor at Camp Hill, as his grandfather had been at nearby Parkhurst. He was the youngest of four; one sister, two brothers, spread over ten years. The family moved to London, where his father ran Wandsworth Prison, then to Winchester. At eight Patrick began boarding as a Winchester College Quirister at the cat ...more
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“Her anger and fuss, the waiting for the AA man, the very expensive process of getting more keys made at the garage, were as nothing compared to the agony of the few minutes before he had to tell her, when his only, hopeless wish had been that he could unpick time and find himself back at the moment when she so uncharacteristically entrusted them to him so he could wait in the car while she slipped into the chemist’s for whatever it was she didn’t want him to see her buy. He” 0 likes
“He had the heating on because immobility made him cold. The flat was recently built. Its windows and doors were all double-glazed but there was a keen easterly that had found a chink in one of the seals around the picture window and set up a wail. The whole flat was keening.” 0 likes
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