- Book: Take Nothing With You
- Location: Bristol, Weston-super-Mare
- Author: Patrick Gale
This is the story of Eustace (what an excellent and choice name for this beguiling and delightful lead character). The story is a wonderfully blended, dual timeline story: Eustace, now in his 50s and living in London, is embarking on a new relationship with Theo and being treated for thyroid cancer. Back in the 1970s, as a young teenager and gifted cellist, he is gently learning who he is and where his place in the world might… he is looking for his people, whoever they are.
The author excellently portrays slightly off kilter situations that imbue the narrative with a wry element. In the 1970s Eustace is living with his parents in a large, inherited house in Weston-Super-Mare and in order to make ends meet, his parents have converted much of their accommodation into an old people’s home, counting his paternal grandmother amongst the residents. His parents’ marriage is not an altogether happy one and when they need to finance Eustace’s cello instruction to the next level, it comes under further stress.
His musical talent is brought out by his teacher Carla Gold. She organises a beautiful cello for him to play and he goes on to accompany her on a Friday to stay with two gay friends in Bristol, Louis and Ebrahim. Their lifestyle – from the food, the artistic vibe and living environment – is a revelation to Eustace. His mother is also there to keep an eye on things, ostensibly….
His capabilities mean he is entered for a scholarship at Clifton College and he is invited to attend classes in the Borders. As he mixes with new people and makes friends, he gradually comes to understand who he is and what he is about. In his early years, however, he really does need a hug. The author clearly sculpts Eustace as a young LGBT boy, feeling different to his peers. Some of Eustace’s experiences (as the author writes at the end of the novel) are informed by the author’s time at Winchester College, where he was subjected to bullying. The portrayal of a diligent, lovely little boy, with all the childhood angst and determination is really quite masterful.
I have now learned more about the cello, have delighted in the music that leaps from the pages and I found myself at times smiling at some of the situations and interchanges; at other times feeling sad at. It is a heartening, poignant and intelligent tale, told with warmth and grace. It is always a pleasure to read a novel crafted Patrick Gale.