The Exhibitionist

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Pub Date 17 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 17 Mar 2022

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Description

'In The Exhibitionist Mendelson brings a forensic eye to family dynamics, laying bare the agonies of rage, frustration and longing that lie just beneath the surface of domestic life. The result is a devastating treat of a novel: funny, furious, dark and delicious.'  - SARAH WATERS

'A delicious, heartbreaking family snapshot about thwarted ambition, misplaced loyalty & good and bad love. Secrets abound. Fabulously written and utterly compelling.'' - MARIAN KEYES

The longer the marriage, the harder truth becomes . . .

Meet the Hanrahan family, gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for a new exhibition of his art – the first in many decades – and one he is sure will burnish his reputation for good.

His three children will be there: beautiful Leah, always her father’s biggest champion; sensitive Patrick, who has finally decided to strike out on his own; and insecure Jess, the youngest, who has her own momentous decision to make . . .

And what of Lucia, Ray’s steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist, too, but has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. What will happen if she decides to change? For Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice.

The Exhibitionist is the extraordinary fifth novel from Charlotte Mendelson, a dazzling exploration of art, sacrifice, toxic family politics, queer desire, and personal freedom.

'In The Exhibitionist Mendelson brings a forensic eye to family dynamics, laying bare the agonies of rage, frustration and longing that lie just beneath the surface of domestic life. The result is a...


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ISBN 9781529052749
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

This is the best book I've read this year. I gobbled it up on two long bus journeys. Characters that you want to either hug or murder, trapped in a dysfunctional family, a plot with escalating tension (and the stuff of my nightmares: will there be enough food for everyone?) and some really wonderful writing - similes that stop you in your tracks (as good as Raymond Chandler who, in my view, is the king of similes). Examples: "He still feels cold and rigid as a park railing"; "Their feet on the frosty gravel sound like a radio play" ; "the best top Lucia has ever seen: short and sexy and made of huge black sequins, like a military fish"; "Sukie's black blouse is translucent, balloon-sleeved, like a dubious St Petersburg governess about to marry money"; "An odd expression crosses Lucia's face: fear or excitement, swiftly checked, like an EtchaSketch twiddled clean".

More lovely sentences: "Jess can tell they're automatically adopting the Art Face: knowledgeable reverence"; "At the back of Lucia's mind unease flicks its muscular tail". And a description of a really messy kitchen in which "like chicken pox scars, family history lingers".

Lucia is married to Ray, a thorough monster, but "How her heart aches for him, his brutal fragility, his frail boyish ego; has ached." The poignancy of that semi-colon and those last two words!

I was very glad to say goodbye to Ray and the other men in the book were mostly tiresome but I really wanted to know what happened to Lucia and her daughters: finishing a book wanting to know more of characters is, for me, the acid test of quality. Highly recommended. (Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for an ARC.)

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A brilliant family saga with a familiar structure (big get-together, tensions arise, secrets come out) but a fresh and distinctive take on family dynamics. The Hanrahans seem to live an enviable life: a rambling house in North London, an artistic couple and their bohemian brood, big family gatherings, professional success. But the cover of the book lets you know what you are in for: the front of the dolls’ house opens up, suggesting a look behind the facade. And the roses, creeping out from the windows could be the equivalent of roses around the door of a cottage, the classic idyll, or they could be the briars of Sleeping Beauty, stifling and trapping those inside (in the book it’s actually Virginia Creeper but you get the picture). The Exhibitionist of the title is Ray, to whom we are introduced in the first sentence as he pronounces ‘Tolstoy was an idiot’. The book centres around a weekend where his family and friends will descend for a private view for his latest exhibition.
Charlotte Mendelson has a precise, elegant style, laced with sharp wit. The wordplay reminded me of Jilly Cooper, in the best possible way – this is no bonkbuster although Mendelson is rather good on the frisson and sensuality of illicit attraction, along with the yearning and ache that accompany love that cannot be fulfilled. She is also excellent on the agonies and ecstasies of being a parent: Lucia recalls her daughter, ‘beloved Jess, at whose shape, her fully grown survival she longs to marvel, whose scent she wants to carry around her neck in a little bottle for head sniffs.’ Correspondingly, there are poignant moments when Lucia catches herself saying the wrong thing to her children and instantly regrets it, the eternal lot of a mother, trying to keep everyone happy and maintain equilibrium.
As you discover that the house itself is crumbling and rotting around the family’s ears, it becomes clear that the lives of those inside are not what they seem. Unlike, say, The Corrections though it is a fun book to read, despite the desperate unhappiness it describes. This is down to the style and artistry of Mendelson’s writing.
It did take me a while to get into, probably because there are a lot of characters and introducing them all slows the tempo down. It’s only really by the middle that the book hits its stride and pulls you in. Rest assured that, if you stick with it, you will be richly rewarded.

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