Gale, Patrick. “The Facts of Life: A Novel”, Harper Reissue 2009..
Edward Pepper and Sally Banks live in an odd, secluded, eight-sided house, “The Roundel” in the English countryside. They hope that hardships are now behind them., Edward met Sally when she as a doctor, treated him for tuberculosis after he escaped from Nazi Germany to England and they have raised a family together. Edward is a German-Jewish composer and Sally has supported his every move but then he becomes preoccupied with the temptations of the movie industry.
The two and their children and grandchildren know that lives will be mixtures of happiness and tragedy and that they live in a world filled with hard realities. As they years progress, the family is tested by “mistrust, tyranny, misunderstanding, and an AIDS diagnosis”.
“The Facts of Life” is the story of Edward Pepper, a German born Jew whose family sends him to an English boarding-school thus allowing him to miss the concentration camp in which is parents died Part I of this book is the story of their life together. In Part II which is somewhat predictable we learn about the rest of the family.
Patrick Gale is a wonderful storyteller and his descriptions of historical places and is only matched by the fine the characters he has drawn here. They are perfectly flawed and three dimensional and I felt that I knew them. There are laughs in this book, but there is also great sorrow, tough decisions.
The beginning of the novel sets things up introducing the reader to Edward and Sally, their courtship and marriage in post-WWII England. In the second part of the book, we have a modern-day gay romance novel which becomes a novel of issues with the introduction of AIDS. It is a powerful read and one that will be remembered for time to come.