Book review: The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson

Who doesn’t love a dysfunctional family story where the central character is a pompous, patriarchal, narcissistic artist with delusions of grandeur at its centre in the lead up to Christmas?

Tolstoy was an idiot

Ray Hanrahan is a painter who believes he is special and that his family exist in subjugation to support his greatness. Ray’s wife Lucia is a talented artist in her own right but self sabotages her own career for the sake of her husbands ego, ignoring calls from her gallerist with good news because it will upset Ray.

All that crap about happy families. It’s the unhappy families who’re alike. Uptight, cold…ugh

The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson is set over a weekend on which Ray has engaged his family and friends to celebrate the opening of his first art exhibition in years. His domination of his family has them scuttling around in fear to keep him calm, whilst concealing their dissatisfaction with their circumstances by acting in subterfuge to get their own needs met.

Artists need wives; everyone tells Ray this, or no ties at all.

Ray’s wife Lucia is having a clandestine affair with a politician, Priya. Lucia’s son (Ray’s stepson) is treated like the house slave by Ray and lives in a dilapidated caravan in the garden weighed down by, and trying to dodge, his stepfather’s bullying. Ray and Lucia’s eldest daughter, Leah is her fathers charlady and the youngest, Jess is the family rebel.

Longlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction, The Exhibitionist is a vivid, drily hilarious story about a middle class domestic tyrant. Perfect Christmas reading!

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