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A Perfectly Good Man

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,564 Ratings  ·  229 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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Rebecca by Daphne du MaurierJamaica Inn by Daphne du MaurierFrenchman's Creek by Daphne du MaurierRoss Poldark by Winston GrahamThe Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
Books set in Cornwall
45th out of 169 books — 53 voters
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Best Books Set in Cornwall
27th out of 111 books — 70 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,531)
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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
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.
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
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
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
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
Apr 25, 2016 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
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
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
Sep 19, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
Josh Ang
Apr 10, 2016 Josh Ang rated it really liked it
An absorbing story about being good, told through an ingenious narrative where all the characters are focalisers, and the chapters centre on each character at various ages, so the reader gets a non-linear account, but yet a comprehensive view of events from the ensemble cast.

However, it does get a little complex and the focus on Barnaby Johnson, the main character, a Cornish parish priest in a smallish village, feels a little decentralised. The intriguing topic of assisted suicide which opens th
Jayne Charles
Apr 23, 2014 Jayne Charles rated it really liked it
Another great read from Patrick Gale. I don’t think he is capable of writing a bad book. This is stylistically similar to the excellent “Notes from an Exhibition” and borrows some of its characters too.

The focus of the novel is Barnaby, a priest in a small Cornish town, who faces a crisis in the opening chapter. From there the narrative moves backwards and forwards in time, revealing complexities in relationships and personalities and examining the basis of Barnaby’s own religious convictions. T
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.
Perri Oldfield
Okay, so this wasn't a terrible book. It wasn't particularly bad either - in fact by the end I was quite enjoying it. But only 3 stars as there were parts I really had to persevere to get through - for no other reason than them being quite dull. It also wasn't written fantastically.

On the whole though, it was a lovely story - following the lives of various characters all held together through one common theme of their Parish Priest, Barnaby. Each story deals in some way with their coming to term
Dec 21, 2014 Alistair rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Excellent news Reader: Mr. Gale is back in form, and its amazing what a good foundation structure can do to improve an authors form, or anyones for that matter. In some recent efforts it needs to be acknowledged Mr. Gale has had a tendency to ramble and lack focus. Told, not in chronological order, the story of Barnaby Johnson, priest, husband, father and the perfectly good man of the title. We see Barnaby at various stages of life ranging in age from 8 to 60; also those around him, his wife, th ...more
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.
May 24, 2015 Susan rated it liked it
Patrick Gale has such a distinctive, thoughtful style of writing, with the emphasis on long narrative passages, rather than dialogue. Here he follows the life of Rev. Barnaby Johnson. I was immediately confused by the fact he was referred to as "Father", so I assumed he was a Catholic priest - wrong as a wife, daughter and troubled adopted son appear on the scene. The storyline is not followed chronologically but darts back and forth between episodes and people who played a significant part in B ...more
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.
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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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