The Exhibitionist, Charlotte Mendelson


I loved this multi-generational family drama from Charlotte Mendelson. It’s a real romp - funny, sad, poignant and very clever, and while I’m not convinced by the idea ‘beach read’ is a genre, this is a book I would love to have as company on any sort of holiday.

The setting is classic Mendelson. A sprawling artistic middle class family who live in north London in a similarly sprawling house. Notorious British artist Ray Hanrahan, the patriarch, is preparing for a long-awaited exhibition. Though once a huge deal, his success has since been eclipsed by his wife Lucia, who tries to hide her light in order to shield Ray and protect herself. Their children Patrick, Leah and Jess all struggle to define themselves apart from in relation to their revered father. Everyone does.

Mendelson unravels the story of toxic relationships, narcissistic parenting, creepy idolatry and forbidden love with expertise. She knows each character and their story and motivations so keenly you feel, when the book comes to its crushing close, that she could spin another one out of its final words, right there and then.

The Exhibitionist has light as well as shade in its unerring humour. It is also a sad and tender novel, a reminder that today’s actions will come to bear on everybody’s future, that enabling terrible behaviour is terrible in itself and that families can make and break themselves with each generation.

I listened to The Exhibitionist on Audible, brilliantly narrated by Juliet Stevenson. To my horror it broke down halfway through but some chap on the instant help fixed it very quickly. Thanks!