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A Perfectly Good Man

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,247 ratings  ·  202 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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Ross Poldark by Winston GrahamPenmarric by Susan HowatchDaphne du Maurier Collection by Daphne du MaurierThe Shell Seekers by Rosamunde PilcherThe Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley
Best Books Set in Cornwall
18th out of 103 books — 54 voters
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Books set in Cornwall
36th out of 150 books — 28 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,984)
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Lari Don
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
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.
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Anne Bryson
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
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
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
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
I enjoyed this quite a lot, but it had a lot of faults, such as too many characters who didn't have much to do with the main plot and added nothing to the tension. There's one whole sub-plot that simply doesn't need to be there. And because the author's attention was focussed too widely, he didn't have time to really bring the main characters truly to life. But nevertheless, it's certainly a "good read" and raises some interesting questions, so I do recommend it in spite of my reservations.
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
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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
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
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
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
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.
Jayne Charles
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
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
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
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
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.
This has been lurking on one or other of the bookshelves for sometime and finally, thankfully, it's been read. An absolutely stunning piece of writing that deals with the life of Barnaby Johnson, a Cornish priest struggling with a familiarly dysfunctional situation . Gale's chronology is somewhat scatter-gun and it works, offering us snapshots of the key characters caught at various moments. These range from Barney himself, his 'sturdy' wife Dot, daughter Carrie, adopted son Jim/Phuc, and Nuala ...more
This has been a very good read, beautifully written, I enjoyed it immensely! The second book I've read by this author and again, I love the characters (even the ones I hate!) which make me realise how convincingly he has created them. The supporting character's back stories are enough to let us know what makes them tick, without going off on different story lines.

As in 'Notes From an Exhibition' the story is not told chronologically, with several revelations in later chapters proving that this w
Megan Jones
Although I did enjoy A Perfectly Good Man, for me it is not a brilliant read mainly because there is no real story to it, even the blurb is not sure what it is about. What this is instead is a collection of characters written beautifully that as the book unfolds all connect with each other in the small community village this is set in. I did find the book to be quite moving and the different aspects of each characters life was interesting as was the variety of characters that Patrick Gale has cr ...more
Becca Thomas
I loved this book. Really insightful and thought provoking. I read it in the same week as the Jojo Moyes one which deals with similar issue ( Me before you) in a very different way.
I like Patrick Gale's quiet prose. It's very visual, so you get the added bonus of beautiful word pictures that bring the book to life. The 'perfectly good man' of the title is Anglican parish priest Barnaby Johnson, with his perfectly un-ordinary life - as it turns out. The book opens with a young man's planned suicide, the startled Barnaby in attendance. The story then follows a non-linear, zig-zag pattern over time, in the different points of view of the various characters (including Barnaby) ...more
Carey Combe
Sentimental enough to bring a huge lump to my throat and with well-drawn believable characters it is perfect holiday reading.
I really like the way the book is crafted but I couldn't engage with the book overall
Andrew Cox
Patrick Gale is such a good writer and is a delight to read. Generally speaking, a bit like Kent Haruf, he is able to paint characters in such a positive uplifting way despite the tragedies these characters go through. However Modest Carlsson must be one of the unpleasantest characters Ive ever come across. Each time he appears I wanted to hiss & he has no redeeming features. Wonderful.

Gale explores such important issues but in such a subtle way. He explores the complexities of relationships
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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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