Book Review: Ease, by Patrick Gale

According to the publisher’s information, Ease is “a novel about downsizing from a life of ease and upgrading to one of sleaze.” It is an attention grabbing description, but doesn’t do the story justice, and oversimplifies my experience of it.

Ease tells the story of Domina Tey, a successful playwright, living in abundance in Bristol (Clifton to be precise), but she isn’t happy. She’s living in the grey zone, stagnating in her life and creativity. She leaves her husband, temporarily, for an escape in London. In search of a more gritty, anonymous existence. She rents a bedsit in a Bayswater, and the story evolves around the characters she meets.

Ease was written in 1985, Gales second novel. Last year I read A Place Called Winter (and am eagerly awaiting the next), and loved it (reviewed here). I enjoyed Ease hugely, but what I also appreciated is his development as a writer. Gale is a superb observer of people, right up at the top, and in Ease, this is no different. The writing reflects his apprenticeship, which is more clunky (you notice it getting in the way at times, a bit overwritten), and also the plot devices. There are a number of coincidences that happen that need to get the plot moving on. I wonder if he’d be satisfied with that now.

Early in his novel writing career, Gale nails the characterisation. I didn’t quite like the rather spoilt Domina Tey, yet I was intrigued what happened to her. Domina was influenced by two dominant female characters – her mother and her agent, both imposing, perhaps a little flatly described, but they served a purpose to illuminate Domina more. The characters in the Bayswater residence added colour, humour and dimension to Ease. Gale shows his turn for comedy, often in testing circumstances in his characters. I rather wished I could have met Thierry, the gay, ‘sauna’ visiting waiter. I can still picture the scene when he is fleeing after a nighttime tryst.

So, the characters are well crafted, the premise of the novel is a good one. There is a definite story, with a clever twist (no plot spoilers here), but there is something not resolved for this reader. What has Domina Tey learned in her adventures, her interferences? This I am baffled about. I read that Gale based this on his own life experiences, of being in a sleazy flat, but not of the protagonist. I think I would have liked something more in the ending – not that I’m unhappy with the ending per se, just Domina’s development path in it.

I would certainly recommend Ease – it’s not as tightly written as some of his more recent works, but it is still a highly engaging and  enjoyable read.

I was given an advance electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an objective  and honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

characterisation. I didn’t quite like the rather spoilt Domina Tey, yet I was intrigued what happened to her. Domina was influenced by two dominant female characters – her mother and her agent, both imposing, perhaps a little flatly described, but they served a purpose to illuminate Domina more. The characters in the Bayswater residence added colour, humour and dimension to Ease. Gale shows his turn for comedy, often in testing circumstances in his characters. I rather wished I could have met Thierry, the gay, ‘sauna’ visiting waiter. I can still picture the scene when he is fleeing after a nighttime tryst.

So, the characters are well crafted, the premise of the novel is a good one. There is a definite story, with a clever twist (no plot spoilers here), but there is something not resolved for this reader. What has Domina Tey learned in her adventures, her interferences? This I am baffled about. I read that Gale based this on his own life experiences, of being in a sleazy flat, but not of the protagonist. I think I would have liked something more in the ending – not that I’m unhappy with the ending per se, just Domina’s development path in it.

I would certainly recommend this book – it’s not as tight as some of his more recent works, but it is still a highly engaging, enjoyable read.

I was given an advance electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an objective and honest review.

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