If you had to go into hospital for a 24 treatment, but could only take things that you had to leave behind what would you take? Eustace is faced with this very conundrum for his radiotherapy and whilst he somehow forgets a book(?!), he does have a cheap MP3 player that his friend has pressed into his hand at the last minute. Filled with her professional cello playing, these 24 hours are carved out for Eustace to listen and sink into the memories of his own cello playing.
I discovered Patrick Gale at a writing festival earlier this year where he was interviewed and took part in a book signing. This book had not been released at the time, but I did buy a copy of Rough Music which I will get around to reading at some point!
In Take Nothing with You, Eustace looks back on his story of growing up in Weston Super Mare which he feels is a dead end town. He is a passionate cello player, enthralled with music and the arts and the sophistication of his music teachers. His home life is unusual as his parents run a retirement home in which they live. So Eustace is constantly striving to fit in. To add to the mix of this pre pubescent self exploration, Eustace is also trying to work out his own sexuality.
I found Take Nothing With You an immersive read. Gale’s portrayal of this young, self conscious, boy is both realistic and touching. You feel for Eustace’s vulnerability, you want to wrap him up and make sure he can face the world and the challenges it’s going to throw at him. Though this isn’t a book where big things happen (with one exception) the happenings in this story are small and quotidian. Gale isn’t one for car chases and snipers. This story is one of an ordinary boy facing ordinary challenges and that is what makes it so relatable. You don’t have to be gay and play the cello to understand Eustace because he’s just a kid like we all were once.
Join me again next Monday when I will be reviewing Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I cannot wait for this one!