The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson - review by Francesca Peacock

Francesca Peacock

Family Fortunes

The Exhibitionist

By

Mantle 336pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Charlotte Mendelson’s The Exhibitionist is set over one eventful weekend, as the Hanrahan family prepares for the patriarch artist Ray’s first exhibition in over a decade. Most of the story unfolds in a decaying, bohemian house in north London, as Mendelson deftly sketches the tensions within a family strained to breaking point. Tolstoy’s famous aphorism about the uniqueness of unhappy families is pertinent here: with a Lear-like father, a near-incestuous, sycophantic daughter and a browbeaten, traumatised mother, the Hanrahans seem a prime example of how tragically specific family dysfunctionality can be.

Mendelson’s great success is to make the endless sacrifices, self-conscious denials and forbidden emotions of the Hanrahans heartbreakingly relatable amid the self-indulgent artistic chaos that the characters inhabit. Lucia, Ray’s wife, has spent decades suppressing her own artistic ambitions and her youngest daughter, Jess, struggles against this generational pattern

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter