Audiobook of the week

The Exhibitionist Charlotte Mendelson MANTLE, 9HR 49MIN

Fiona Sturges





Arazor-sharp study of male entitlement and thwarted female ambition, Charlotte Mendelson’s fifth novel is set over one frantic weekend in 2010. It revolves around ageing patriarch Ray Hanrahan, a washed-up artist who is preparing for his first solo show in 20 years in the hope of recapturing past glories. As family members gather at the Hanrahans’ ramshackle north London home, all brace themselves to do battle with Ray and his despotic ways. Chief among the downtrodden is his wife, Lucia, a sculptor with twice her husband’s talent but who, for a quiet life, has taken pains not to outshine him. Lucia is recovering from cancer surgery and from Ray’s infidelity but, after an affair of her own with a local politician, she is now “ablaze with awkwardness, menopause, lust”. Meanwhile, Ray’s adult children – daughters Leah and Jess and stepson Patrick – are variously scared, resentful and hopelessly compliant, each holding secrets or grudges they dare not share. The narrator is Juliet Stevenson, who moves seamlessly between the novel’s alternating viewpoints. Her Ray is a booming blend of neediness, passiveaggression and delusion, reflective of a man oblivious to the pain he continues to inflict, and who believes his family to be devoted. But it is her portrayal of Lucia that stays with the listener as her weariness at her husband’s tyranny is slowly overtaken by resentment at all she has sacrificed. After a lifetime of treading on eggshells, something has to give, and when it does it is spectacular.