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From the bestselling author of A PLACE CALLED WINTER comes MOTHER’S BOY, a superb historical novel of Cornwall, class, desire and two world wars.

‘One of the joys of Gale’s writing is how even the smallest of characters can appear fully formed, due to a charming wickedness alongside deeper observations’ Irish Times

Laura, an impoverished Cornish girl, meets her husband when they are both in service in Teignmouth in 1916. They have a baby, Charles, but Laura’s husband returns home from the trenches a damaged man, already ill with the tuberculosis that will soon leave her a widow. In a small, class-obsessed town she raises her boy alone, working as a laundress, and gradually becomes aware that he is some kind of genius.

As an intensely private young man, Charles signs up for the navy with the new rank of coder. His escape from the tight, gossipy confines of Launceston to the colour and violence of war sees him blossom as he experiences not only the possibility of death, but the constant danger of a love that is as clandestine as his work.

MOTHER’S BOY is the story of a man who is among, yet apart from his fellows, in thrall to, yet at a distance from his own mother; a man being shaped for a long, remarkable and revered life spent hiding in plain sight. But it is equally the story of the dauntless mother who will continue to shield him long after the dangers of war are past.

‘A writer with heart, soul, and a dark and naughty wit, one whose company you relish and trust’ Observer

(P) 2022 Headline Publishing Group Ltd


I loved it. It's an incredibly evocative, enjoyable read...I didn't want it to stop. I wanted to stay in the world and carry on.
Cathy Rentzenbrink
A lovely, generous, absorbing novel. Charles is made both 'of' and belonging to his place and world, while also not fitting into it. The war sections are so very good, so terrible and ugly and gritty. I absolutely believed all of it
Tessa Hadley
You know sometimes, from the very first page of a book, you feel so at home and so involved with the story, it's as if you've walked alongside the characters all your life? Mother's Boy is one of those books. A sign of an incredible storyteller
Joanna Cannon
Patrick Gale's MOTHER'S BOY is a tour-de-force; a meticulously researched re-imagining of the early life of a man who you may never have heard of, but who for many years was the voice of Radio Four's Poetry Please; the Cornish poet Charles Causley. It takes us from kitchens to battleships, and through two world wars. But more than than just an evocation of history - much more - the book is really a love-letter, to motherhood, and to the landscapes and townscapes of Gale's adopted home county of Cornwall. Most of all, it is a heartfelt tribute from one fine writer to another; a patient and subtle reflection on the tricky art of noticing - and enduring - what really matters in life
Neil Bartlett
Gale has a rare talent for evoking human relationships. Here he exploits his skill fully, richly examining the dynamics between mother and son, and between men and men allowed in extraordinary times to explore what they really mean to one and other
Petroc Trelawny
I think Charles Causley would be incredibly happy - and stunned - if he were able to read your book. What you've done is extraordinary; you've somehow created a world that only Causley could have been born into and grown up in. His poetry calls up emotion; there's always much more than at first appears - and your story suggests, in the most sensitive and subtle way, the possible events that these echoes, memories and shadows might have come from. It's brilliant
Vivian French
Patrick Gale's writing has an unmatched ability to take you by the hand and just casually, quietly, lead you in, and in, and in. It all seems so simple, and then you're in tears
Louisa Young
Patrick Gale always writes so well of his men and of the women near them. In Mother's Boy his women shine as brightly as the men, his characters age and grow by themselves, alive in their actions, hopes and losses.
Stella Duffy
Mother's Boy beautifully celebrates the underdog. It is a celebration of love in hidden places, and love in ordinary places, and the courage required to be true to the person you are, when there is no road map to guide you. A sublime piece of storytelling'
Rachel Joyce
Storytelling like this, from structure to sentence to imagery to sheer rolling belief in the world and its people - these qualities are a rare treat. Want to learn how to write a novel? Read this or any other by Patrick Gale
Eleanor Anstruther