A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale, which was conceived as a companion piece to his earlier book Notes on an Exhibition. The central idea of that book was of the difficulty in growing up with a mother who was a mad genius, and in A Perfectly Good Man the madness is on the father’s side. We admired Gale’s skill in having the plot move in two directions at once spiralling backwards into the main character’s roots and troubled teens and childhood to find out what the answer to his need to be “good” might be and how each chapter felt as contained as a short story. Our group has been a fan of Gale’s since he first visited Shearer’s discussing his earlier work. To have him return to Shearer’s this year to discuss his latest novel and to revisit some of the characters we loved from the first novel makes him feel like one of the family!
2. Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper was chosen as a very close second. He
is also one of our special visiting authors who feels like a family member
to us. We admired Perlman’s skill at describing the worlds surrounding
two men and their families and how they swirl in and out of history as
the forces of the Holocaust, the American civil rights movement, Chicago
unions, and New York City racial politics combine in a thrilling cross-
generational literary symphony. Despite describing some of the worst
horrors of the 20th century, it ends unapologetically happily as ''a young
African-American oncologist and a white Jewish historian stood smiling
and talking to a skinny black street sweeper.''
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was chosen as our third pick. Beautiful Amy
and handsome Nick would seem a perfect match. Our interest in this
unconventional crime novel was piqued when we learn that they are
both consummate liars with dark secrets they are keeping from each
other and the reader. This provided us with many discussion points
about relationships, what is the truth and society’s propensity to always
suspect the husband whenever a wife goes missing. Flynn has suggested
that one of her inspirations was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - the play
by Edward Albee about power games in a toxic marriage performed on
film by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who ripped into each other
with such gusto it was hard to watch. This influence can be seen when we
reach the astounding ending.