Take Nothing With You is the third book I’ve read by Patrick Gale and is my favourite to date.
Take Nothing With You is the story of a lovely man named Eustace, who when the story begun was “at an age when he was reassured that life was unlikely to surprise him further.” Obviously, the next thing was he got two big surprises, the first that he had thyroid cancer and would possibly die and the second that he had fallen in love with a much younger man whom he had met on a dating app but hadn’t yet met in person.
Eustace’s friend Naomi, a professional cellist, provided him with recordings of enough cello music to see him through the time he would have to spend in isolation while he was radioactive after a cancer treatment. Listening to the cello music triggered the memories that made up the rest of his story.
Eustace had been an awkward only child with seemingly mismatched parents but at a very young age he discovered music and became enraptured by the cello. Apart from mathematics Eugene wasn’t very good at school, but he loved the cello and was encouraged to pursue a careen in music by his parents, who arranged music lessons for him with Carla Gold, a bohemian professional cellist.
Carla’s friendship opened up a whole world for Eugene and his mother, particularly when Carla introduced them to the first gay couple Eugene had ever met. The two men and Eugene became dear friends and as time went on they also became his mentors in both life and music.
Eustace’s mother and Carla started a relationship also, although Eustace seemed oblivious to this development. Around this same time he was beginning to develop sexually and was enormously attracted to his best friend, Vernon. Their friendship continued throughout their teenage years and although Vernon liked girls, he and Eustace occasionally experimented sexually together. Ordinarily I dislike explicit descriptions of sexual encounters but I’m making an exception in this story. They were beautifully written and were integral to Eustace’s story.
Eustace and Naomi met as teenagers at a summer school for aspiring cellists where Eugene appeared to have been singled out as having exceptional talent. After Eugene’s mother was involved in a serious accident he had to leave the school, which changed the course of his future.
While I was reading I was constantly searching for and listening to the pieces of cello music that Eustace played throughout the story, and I enjoyed listening to this music as I read.
The story also touched on Eustace’s present, and managed to go back and forwards between his past and present without ever interrupting the flow of the story.
Eustace was an equally delightful character as a child, teenager and as an adult. The writing in this story is beautiful and made me feel what Eustace was feeling throughout, from anxiety and sadness, humiliation and despair, but best of all, joy, hope, passion and love. Take Nothing With You was a pleasure to read.