The Exhibitionist

The Exhibitionist

I got The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson for my birthday from my sister and read it in the August heatwave.

It centres around one of the most well-written monstrous characters that I have read for ages. Toxic, self-centred, bullying, abusive and manipulative, Ray has his wife and children exactly where he wants them – under his control and dancing to his tune. An artist whose short-lived celebrity has long since faded, he is jealous of his wife Lucia’s quiet success, which she does everything she can to downplay.

He has an unhealthy relationship with his grown-up eldest daughter Leah, who still lives at home, worshipping him, but still fighting for his love. He is vile and vicious to his younger daughter Jess, who has tried to escape to a new life in Scotland, one that brings its own challenges, as she has managed to repeat history, in finding a man who doesn’t respect her and wants to control her. Then there is poor Patrick, Ray’s stepson who has been squashed into a trembling submission by years of watching his mother take his father’s side.

Their house is also a key character in this book. Dank, decaying and as troubled and on the brink of collapse as its inhabitants, it sighs and heaves its own way through the pages, desperate for a new beginning.

The novel builds to a crescendo as all of the family secrets threaten to spill out simultaneously at the exhibition Ray is putting on. I was left wanting a more definitive ending and a more spectacular family bust-up with everyone present, but it’s probably a better book thanks to the way it does end.