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Patrick Gale: Books That Changed My Life

Patrick Gale: Books That Changed My Life

Award-winning author Patrick Gale shares three books that changed his life

Complete Works by Oscar Wilde 

This was a mysterious dark green hardback I discovered, aged seven, tucked away unregarded on the shelves behind my parent’s sofa and I was utterly obsessed by it, initially by the lurid illustrations of scenes like Salome kissing the head of the Baptist or Dorian stabbing his repellent portrait, and then by the Wilde’s bittersweet short stories, surely only nominally for children. It was the first book I felt recognised me, and in some way I knew I couldn’t possibly share with grown-ups. 

Complete Works Oscar Wilde

The Bell by Iris Murdoch 

I read this extraordinary novel after meeting Dame Iris as a student and then devoured every novel of hers until I was up to date. It acknowledged the validity of love between men without fanfare but simply as part of its compassionate survey of an array of human behaviours and misbehaviours.

"I’ve never forgotten the life-changing thrill of The Bell"

There are novels of hers I came to prefer, like The Good Apprentice, but I’ve never forgotten the life-changing thrill of The Bell or stopped being grateful to Murdoch both for helping me through my wild grief when my brother was killed and for inspiring me to abandon ambitions to act and devote myself to writing instead. 

The Bell Iris Murdoch

The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst 

I was living in a bedsit and working as a typist and all around me friends and acquaintance were either sick with HIV/AIDS or terrified of becoming so. The government was actively hostile to gay people and it felt as though my family and straight friends lived in an entirely separate version of reality.

"Alan’s novel arrived like the elegant words of a savage prophet"

Alan’s novel arrived like the elegant words of a savage prophet. I did not like its heartless hero but his shamelessness, and the story’s timely reminder that ours was not the first generation to feel so beleaguered, was deeply inspiring. 

The Swimming Pool Library Alan Hollinghurst

Mother's Boy Patrick Gale

Mother's Boy by Patrick Gale (Tinder Press, £20) is available now

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