Paul Bailey’s novel about shifting family relationships, loss and bereavement is surprisingly sad and remarkably funny in equal measure.
Paul Bailey introduces Peter Smart, whose self-confessed failings gradually reveal a grotesque portrait gallery of the extraordinary people around him.
Peter Smart has a highly developed sense of his own inadequacy. As he sits down to bare his soul, he finds, to his surprise, that it is other personalities who command the stage. In youth he has been flanked by a virago of a mother, aptly dubbed by her in-laws as ‘mouth and trousers’; by mother’s decrepit paramour, Dr Leonard Cottie, author of the astonishingly boring With Stethoscope and Scalpel; and by his unruly grandmother, who, reeking of beer and tobacco, chuckles over ‘penny dreadfuls’.
About the AuthorPaul Bailey is a novelist who has appeared twice on the prize shortlist, with Peter Smart's Confessions (1977) and Gabriel's Lament (1986). His experiences as a judge were less happy.