Ease: A Novel

Ease: A Novel

by Patrick Gale
Ease: A Novel

Ease: A Novel

by Patrick Gale

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A world-weary playwright takes on a fake name and a sleazy apartment—and learns to live again—in this charming novel from bestselling author Patrick Gale.

Success came quick to Domina Tey. An award-winning playwright, Domina was famous before she finished university, and life has been easy ever since. Twenty years later, she churns out plays in the beautiful house she shares with her longtime lover, a novelist whose books are unreadable and whose sense of romance died long ago. Worst of all, Domina’s muse has deserted her, and so she decides to go slumming for as long as it takes to get her life back on track.
She takes a bedsit in Bayswater, one of London’s seedier districts, with the hope that privacy will finally allow her to get some real work done. But she’s barely written a page before she finds herself getting involved with her fellow tenants: a wannabe actress, a gay French lothario, and a devout member of the local Greek Orthodox Church. They show Domina a side of life she’s never seen before, and she quickly learns that before she can start writing again, she will have to live.
This sparkling second novel from Patrick Gale shows the wit, good humor, and deep understanding of human emotions that made him a rising star of literary London. As insightful as it is funny, Ease will make you want to pack a suitcase and find a bedsit of your very own.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504038638
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 08/30/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 150
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester, before attending Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of the United Kingdom’s best-loved novelists, his recent works include A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through, and the Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller Notes from an Exhibition. His latest novel, A Place Called Winter, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize, and the Independent Booksellers’ Novel of the Year award. To find out more about Patrick and his work, visit www.galewarning.org.
 Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester, before attending Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of the United Kingdom’s best-loved novelists, his recent works include A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through, and the Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller Notes from an Exhibition. His latest novel, A Place Called Winter, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize, and the Independent Booksellers’ Novel of the Year award. To find out more about Patrick and his work, visit www.galewarning.org.

Read an Excerpt


A Novel

By Patrick Gale


Copyright © 1986 Patrick Gale
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3863-8


In her youth, such evenings alone with her three cherished contemporaries had been a rare indulgence; now that she approached her prime they formed the limping heart of her lame social round. Dinner was finished and a scent of dead candles hung, acrid, on the air. There was a lull in the truffle-weighted conversation, broken only by the sighing of the gas-fire and an occasional gurgle as steak was ushered into gut. She drained her brandy glass, set it on the rug and nestled back into her armchair. Standing at the bookcase behind her, Rick muttered as he flipped the pages in an album of press cuttings. From the chair on the other side of the mantelpiece her Randy was staring at the fire, exhausted beyond the faintest expression. Their hostess's liberality had been extended as much to herself as her guests; Ginny lay sprawled on the sofa, mouth agape, flesh easing its too, too solidity through a ladder near the top of her tights. The hand that had been nursing a glass trailed onto the rug below her. With each deep breath her form slid a fraction further over the brink. She would tumble soon and then they could leave. Domina ran a hand through her hair and glanced across at Randy to bring him in on the joke. He was pretending not to have seen. Over the salmon Ginny had paid him the compliment – characteristically barbed – that he didn't have the look of a live-in lover of eighteen years' standing. Domina glanced back to her schoolfriend and wondered that her company hadn't aged Rick faster than it had.

'Here we are,' said Rick suddenly. 'I knew I had it. June '66 ... "The New Marlowe Society production of As You Like It is graced by a sprightly Rosalind in the person of Miss Fiona Templeton." There, I said it was her and not Gemma.'

The sudden voice woke his wife and precipitated her passage to the rug. Randy sprang forward and helped her back into a crash-landing position on the sofa. Domina stood.

'Is that the time? Rick, darling, I really think we should be ...'

'Oh. Must you?' asked Rick.

'Well. Work and all that,' muttered Randy.

'Don't you bloody dare,' Ginny began, then subsided once more.

'Rick, you're sweet and it's been lovely.' Domina planted a kiss on his cheek. 'But we must let you both get to sleep.'

She walked out to the hall to retrieve her coat. The men followed her, Bronx and Windsor exchanging manly reassurances. She handed Randy his scarf. He had barely caught her eye since they left the table. Rick opened the door onto the Clifton pavement. A summer shower was falling.

'God, it's piddling down,' he said, 'do you want to borrow an umbrella?'

'No. Honestly. It's only a bit of drizzle.'

'Yeah,' added Randy, 'it'd wake us up a bit.'

'No, go on. Take it. I'll drop round and pick it up tomorrow.' Rick pressed it on them. His novels were unreadable, but he was the soul of tact.

'Thanks,' Domina accepted. "Night, Ginny. Lovely evening,' she called over Rick's shoulder, and they were alone in the rain.

Domina had hoped for a little flurry of amiable backbiting once they were out of earshot, but Randy was offering nothing. They walked half the familiar stretch between Royal York Crescent and The Paragon in silence, then he rapped her skull with one of the umbrella prongs.

'Ow,' she said.

'Sorry,' he said.

'That's OK,' she said, and they walked a little further. 'I know we've been living together so long that everyone assumes you're my husband not my lover,' she began at last, 'but I do think you might have sprung to my defence.'


'When Ginny attacked me.'

'She didn't.'

'She did. She said my success had been too easy and that the comforts of my life were made manifest as a complacent, not to say unrelieved tone in my plays. I call that an attack. That analyst Rick's found her is a disaster. She needs a spell at a health farm; lots of raw food and exercise, no gin, and personal comments.'

They reached the half-moon of fanlights that was The Paragon. Randy leant against a lamp-post and pulled her to him, letting the umbrella slip aside.

'Ah, did she make my baby feel insecure, den?'

'Yes, she did. A little.' She smiled up at him. He started to kiss her but a fat raindrop slipped past her collar and onto her spine. She shuddered and broke away. 'Come on,' she said, 'let's get into the warm.'

She was irritated at her failure to match his youthful spontaneity. She had never been much taken with haystacks or railway carriages and this made her feel painfully sensible – like being unable to run with friends' children on the beach. Perhaps she could repair the mood once they were inside. She took the umbrella and, placing her arm in his, hurried for their front door. His arm dropped hers even before he had to reach for the key.

The house was dark. Domina shuddered.

'Boiler's gone out again,' said Randy and walked into his study.

'Are you going to work?' she asked, hanging up her coat.



'Yup. Yup.'

She leaned against the hall wall, listening to the syrupy tick of the longcase clock and watching his back. He settled down at his desk and flicked on the Anglepoise. Hymnals of Radical Insanity: Smart, Blake, Cowper and co. He'd made up a bed in his study so that she could sleep through his irregular bouts of composition. It was a mess of twisted sheets.

'You don't want to come to bed now and get up early?' she tried.

'I'll get up early, but I'm gonna work now as well.' He didn't turn. She could go in and massage those shoulders but that would weaken her position. She stayed put.

'Randy, don't sulk.'

'Who's sulking?'

'You are.'

He turned, a battle won. 'Look, Domina.' That oh-so-rational tone. 'Today's the twenty-eighth. I promised Jonathan I'd get him a first draft by the eighth. That's less than two weeks and I'm less than two-thirds through. Be reasonable, OK?' She walked forward and leaned in the doorway.

'I'm sorry. It was only a drop of rain running down my back.'

'What's that?' he said, peering at a sheet of manuscript.

'Nothing. I'll go and fix the boiler.'

He slipped on his headphones as she turned away. He'd worked to music ever since that gestalt therapy course at St Clare's. She had looked at the cassettes – tinkly Baroque stuff.

Twenty years ago she had leapt at him. Working-class heroes had been sexy, chic. In the years after Cambridge the common touch had been de rigueur. She had flaunted him to her parents' faces, delighting in their concern when she announced that they were 'co-habiting'. (Sinful Living, Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave, '66 —'67.) She had never ceased to be amused at the speed with which their shared prosperity had caused the world to treat them as spouse and spouse. At first the spirit of rebellion, then a superstitious fear that the thrill would go, had kept them from the registry office door; now they remained single from rank apathy.

Domina descended the stairs to the basement kitchen. The offending boiler was boxed in below an airing cupboard. She crouched with a grunt, yanked open the door and peered at the instructions for relighting the pilot light. From upstairs came the tapping and spasmodic bleeps that would last well into the night and which would greet her when she rose in the morning to run a bath. There was always a chance that her bedside light would no sooner be out than footsteps on the stairs would herald a spectacularly tactile apology, but recent experience had shown it to be cruelly slim. She pressed button 2. There was a clank and a muffled, gaseous thud. Through the grimy glass she saw the steady tongues of fire.

She started back up the stairs and paused outside his study door. The tapping was fast and furious; he'd had an idea. She stooped to straighten the linen on his sofa bed, and to plump out his pillows. He didn't turn. When he rested briefly, she could hear a thin rhythmic whisper from his headphones.

'Randy?' she said. There was no reaction. 'Doctor Herskewitz, I want your baby but we're running short of time.'

No reaction.

A variety of things had been left on the bottom step for carrying up later. She picked them up now. The latest edition of Architectural Digest, that carried a feature on the work they'd had done on the house. Proofs of last year's play, which French's were about to bring out. Dread Myrmidon. Two bars of soap. A packet of tampons. Toothpaste. Randy's favourite pair of Levi's that she'd been mending. The clatter of his typewriter followed her as she carried the armful to their room.

His last year's thesis, The Broken Phrase, which had shaken the literary establishment to the roots, had been on everybody's lips when she arrived at Cambridge for her first term. For a twenty-one-year-old, born and bred in the Bronx, to set forth a New Criticism and actually get published was no mean feat. The New Depression, how ever, and the arrival of middle-age on the horizon, had led to a need for security. The lure of a department headship, departmental funds, lecture tours, easy publication, had blunted his approach. The same axe but ground almost to the shaft.

She tossed the jeans on to his side of the bed, then sat at her dressing-table. She pulled open the drawer to put away the tampons. She paused halfway through shutting it again, to take out last month's pill cycle.

She'd stopped taking the contraceptives over four weeks ago on impulse. She told herself she'd tell Randy if he bothered to ask, but he hadn't. Nothing happened. She'd been on the wretched things far too long – having an instinctive dislike of foreign bodies, rubber, coiled or otherwise. Filled with dread by stories of not so vestal brides who'd had to go on to fertility drugs, she had visited Doctor Jameson last week. The tests had shown her to be a potential Ceres.

She sliced up the foil packet with some nail scissors and stuffed it into an empty soap box in the wastepaper basket. Poor Randy. Then she took up her hairbrush and ran it crossly over her scalp a few times. She undressed and walked over to draw the curtains. The rain had stopped and the sky was clear and spangled. Only half aware of the chill creeping over her skin, she stared down to the eerie pattern of orange lights that mapped out the deserted docklands far below.

Evenings with Rick and Ginny taught her a repeatedly forgotten lesson; the undiluted encounter encouraged fruitless reminiscence, and always left her with the illusion that life had unwound with sickening rapidity. Conversation tended to circle around Careers – careers in a vacuum without the trauma and the messy joys that attended them – reducing thirty-nine years to an ascending arc of achievement that was all too pat. It made her feel her age.

There was a sudden clatter of frenzied drumming from the converted hayloft over the garage. Seamus was home. Her lodger. Their lodger. Seamus was meant to be studying design at Bristol Poly but was suffering a crisis of faith. He played with an anarchic pop group.

She brushed teeth, washed face and climbed into bed with Architectural Digest. As she read the glowing terms in which the writer described 15, The Paragon, Clifton, and how its conversion so perfectly reflected the needs of literary critic, R.E. Herskewitz and playwright, Domina Feraldi (39), Domina sensed once too often a profound need for change.


She had passed Monday night in a favourite Bath hotel, simply for the hell of it. Now she had travelled up to Paddington first class, because it was a special occasion. Cases at her side beneath the departures board, she was grateful for the respite that luxury had granted her nerves. A man abandoned a trolley and Domina seized it. She heaved both cases on board, slung handbag and typewriter on top, and trundled off towards the newsagent's.

Five minutes later she was seated in a window of the restaurant, wrapping herself around a strong black coffee, a comforting chocolate croissant mutation, a Times, a Standard and a Guardian. She had travelled up with the last of the commuters and the first wave of mid-season sales-goers. The restaurant was fairly empty. A mid-morning lull. Across the aisle a Japanese child was picking exquisitely at a regulation sandwich. She raised brown eyes to Mina and smiled obediently. Her mother, in cream, murmured something at which her child pushed aside her plate, wiped her hands on a paper napkin, and trod a path to the Ladies.

Mina glanced over the headlines, then turned to the small ads and property sections of The Times. Exorbitant short lets. Unappealing flatshares. Areas far too desirable. She turned to the Guardian. There were no bedsits. She wanted the bedsit she had never had. She read curiously through the flatshare column, and smiled that she was neither black, Buddhist, open brackets twenty-one close brackets, or vegan. As the lesser and cream-clad Japanese left their table, Mina turned to the tabloid. She had telephoned the Students Union accommodation office the previous afternoon, and they had recommended it as a valuable source. She glanced at the pictures of a bomb incident, then wound her way through the cross-indexing to a half-page of properties to let. She gleaned a supportive horoscope on the way.

BAYSWATER, single bedsit in desirable position. Shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Own fridge. Serviced. £28 p.w. inc. H W & Elec.

She encircled the telephone number and hurried to the pay-phone.

The dial was grimy and the lists of dialling codes were masked by a web of jotted numbers. A small white sticker proclaimed: 'Penelope – New Exotic Model' and a Bayswater number. Domina had barely registered the numbers' parity when she had to push in her ten pence.

'Hello? I'm ringing up about the ad in the Standard ... Yes, the bedsit. Has it gone? ... It hasn't? Wonderful ... Of course. I'm at Paddington.' She did not bother to jot the directions down. 'Sussex Gardens, Lancaster Gate and along the Bayswater Road to the last turning before Queensway? Thanks ... Oh yes. My name's Domina Tey. Mrs Domina Tey ... that's right. I'll get over as soon as I can. Bye-bye.' Domina rang off, bought another cup of coffee and returned jauntily to her table. She settled down to the Guardian crossword, then slipped guiltily over to the one in The Times.

She had felt bad about leaving Randy a note. She would have talked to him about it but his adorable uncomprehending 'reasonableness' would have wet-squibbed her spontaneity. It might also have convinced her to stay at home. The adventure of a lifetime would have been diluted into a sensible weekend in Bath, or perhaps a planned, booked, and generally circumscribed trip overseas, with Randy and after he had finished the grand oeuvre. No thanks.

'Darling Rand,' she had scribbled, fingers stiff with excitement, 'I won't be in for dinner for a few weeks but the freezer is well stocked. I've woken with complacency and menopause looming rather more than usual and have had to run away. I'm not leaving you, I'm simply going on a 'visit to myself' for a bit. Sorry if this shocks but there we are. Communication not terribly easy at the moment 'cause of Cookie Cowper. Know you'll understand. Please forward anything to me care of Des, and do write yourself. Secrecy of whereabouts vital to success of spiritual growth. Kiss Seamus for me, or pat his snare-drum or something.

Apologetic affec.


p.s. Tell Them Mamma's fallen sick and I've rushed to the Tuscan bedside ...'


The house was a late Victorian quasi-Parisian pile propped between two self-important, diminutive hotels, the Inverness Plaza and the Kensington. Towers. As Domina thanked the cabby for unloading her baggage she noted that it was one of the few non-commercial buildings in the row. One star. Two stars. B and B from £25 a night. The Metropole. The Britannia. Number 33 was blatantly ill-kempt, holding out staunchly against the tide of renovation. She stood outside the moss-flecked porch and looked up to some blood-red geranium that perched on the topmost window-sill. The place was perfect.

The ground-floor window trundled up in a swirl of net.

'You Mrs Tey?'


'Come on in, love.'

Domina picked up her cases and swung them up the steps. A departing Pakistani handed her her typewriter with a smile.

'Oh. Thank you so much.'

'My pleasure.' He walked on, her eyes on his cheery back, and she found that if she stood on tiptoe she could see over the hedge on the Bayswater Road into the Gardens.


Excerpted from Ease by Patrick Gale. Copyright © 1986 Patrick Gale. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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