Cover Image: The Exhibitionist

The Exhibitionist

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This book would work for you if you like reading about a really dysfunctional family that doesn't get along with each other on any level. Ray is the head of the family, his long suffering wife Lucia has been offered a solo artist project in Venice (the family live in London England). Lucia knows that if she accepts the project, Ray would go ballistic, he has a very inflated view of himself as an artist that is above all. Though he isn't, he hasn't really done any art stuff for many years, when he decides that he's going to have a show of his works to bring attention to his work. It all takes place over a weekend, with Ray's daughter Leah assisting with setting up the show. Lucia meanwhile is involved in an affair, with a woman, a MP for her area, and she's distracted, constantly checking her phone in case she misses a call/text. Lucia has put her art career on hold for the most part, though she is a much better artist than Ray, anybody who says that will face his wrath. The prelude to the show includes Lucia being responsible to make dinner/snacks for the guests, and there are supposed to be many. This book was well written, but I strongly disliked Ray, and Lucia's behaviour around him was off putting (constantly telling him how good he was). Good writing, but overall I would recommend only if you like families that don't get along. Thanks to #Netgalley and #Mantle for the ARC.

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Thanks to St Martins Press and Netgalley for this advanced copy.

I don't know if it was the rush to read this (I'm behind on all my reviews) or what, but this book was a number of funny and bizarre moments, surrounded by odd tid bits that didn't completely gel for me. The characters felt rushed and frenzied and I think I expected them to be more developed. The reveal part way through the book was ok, but I think the lead up could have been better to have it hit more. The ultimate ending, this family's unraveling, didn't feel so much like an unraveling as, I don't know, a meh event.

I wanted to like this book more but it felt chaotic in a way that I wasn't really interested in at this moment. Maybe fewer characters would have helped? Not sure.

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Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this book!

The book is billed as a comedy but I'm afraid I didn't find it funny. Ray is so dreadful and appalling in his treatment of everyone, I just ended up feeling sorry for his victims. And I found it very hard to believe that nobody was brave enough to stand up to him. Lucia is the emotional core of the novel and I rooted for her happiness as much as Ray's comeuppance. The story is cleverly constructed with cliffhangers at the end of chapters and the tension mounting as the exhibition draws near. Ray is too monstrous a character for me to fully recommend The Exhibitionist, but if raging egomaniacs are your thing, you'll find plenty to chew on in this Women's Prize longlisted effort. 3.2 stars

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A huge thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the Advanced Readers Copy of The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson. When I read the synopsis of the latest novel by Mendelson, I was intrigued as it sounded absolutely fantastic. I was thrilled to be approved to read her story.

Unfortunately, The Exhibitionist wasn't the book for me. It started painfully slow, and I plodded along in hopes that the story would pick up pace and become more exciting. Regrettably, the slow pace continued for the entire novel before it abruptly ended. I desperately wanted to love this book, and I hate leaving a negative review. With that being said, I do feel like the book was well written and the relationships to be believable.

Two out of five stars is what I rated The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson. Please don't let my feelings stop you from reading it and judging the story for yourself as everyone has different preferences. Happy Reading!

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Spend the week end with the dysfunctional Hanrahan family. Ray is on the brink of a comeback in the art world with his new exhibition. Everyone is gathering for the weekend event, but wherever the Hanrahan family is, drama ensues. Lucia is also an artist but has put her family first and kowtows to Ray who is an egotistical narcissist. When Lucia gets some good news from from her agent, she hides it not wanting to upset Ray on what is suppose to be “his” special weekend. Ray’s star is fading at the same time Lucia’s is rising. Family secrets abound and Lucia must finally make some choices if she’s ever going to follow her dreams. This book is listed as a comedy, but it is quite a sad story with some rather nasty characters. The Hanrahan’s certainly DO NOT put the fun in dysfunction! Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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Thank you for my advanced copy @Netgalley.

Not what I expected…
The writing style and usage of deictics was very hard to get into. The author introduced around 30 characters in a single paragraph, most of them with no current reason in the scene. Perhaps they appear later in the book and will actual have a role. I ultimately made it 25% of the way and dnf this book. I don’t ever do that. I am not sure if I can make myself eventually go back and finish this one or not.

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The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson isn't going to appeal to every reader--after all dysfunctional families just are not that fun. I feel like I must be missing something as it is listed for some awards. Of course not every book is right for every reader. I Like a good family drama but found it hard to connect with this family.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest option. The Exhibtiionist is available now.

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The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson was a miss for me. I was bored with reading it which shouldn't be the case when a book sucks you in. The men characters in this book were not likeable and if the author was trying to make a statement it was not perceived well. Here's hoping to better reads in the future from this author.

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I'm so thankful to Macmillan Audio, St. Martin's Press, Netgalley, and Charlotte Mendelson for granting me advanced audio, digital, and physical access to this sweet gem of book that held emotional weight that twisted into my with a sharp knife.

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The summary for this novel had absolutely everything I usually love in a great generational saga but I barely made it past the first few pages. The writing was so difficult and clunky. I popped over to Goodreads to check the rating and saw it was only a 3.09 and that one of my fellow bookstagram buddies/reviewers who I usually am on par with for opinions only gave it a one star, so I decided not to continue with it.

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DNF at 36%. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t get into this one! I listened to a little of the audiobook and accidentally skipped forward from about 12% to 45% and didn’t even notice for a while. I just couldn’t grasp all the characters and follow along. Ray was so unlikeable with no redeeming qualities, I had a hard time understanding why everyone catered to him. And I usually like books with some unlikeable characters! But this book just wasn’t for me.

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

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DNF @ 45%

This book is pitched as an "exploration of art, sacrifice, toxic family politics, queer desire, and personal freedom" but it really wasn't any of those things?

All of these characters felt extremely one-dimensional to me and I felt like I truly had no one to want the best for. Ray, who I know was supposed to be unlikeable, was just way too much of a bully for me and it was aggravating having to read about him. I am not necessarily a character driven reader over a plot driven reader, but what most books lack in one they make up for in the other. And it is safe to say that this one didn't deliver on either for me.

The beginning of the book was quite confusing and then when I wasn't confused and felt like I had a true grasp on the motivations of the characters and their purpose to the overall story that was being told, I was just bored.

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Three stars for this book filled with more unlikeable characters than I’ve seen in a long time. I nearly quit at about 17% in, then things were getting interesting and I could usually tell whose mind I was in, and then it just got ridiculous again. I know that almost all families are dysfunctional to some degree, but this is just so bad. Artist Ray Hanrahan. Is horribly narcissistic, his wife does anything to keep the peace, his daughters are filled with insecurity and his step-son is an after-thought, at best.

I continued in the book, hoping the ending would bring at least his daughter Leah to some sort of realization of what her dedication to her father was doing to her, but I was disappointed.

This book is filled with chaos and is mentally exhausting.

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The Exhibitionist was not for me. I basically wanted to see Ray fail at his art show, see his children disown him and his wife to find happiness elsewhere. The story moved too slowly to keep me engaged and there definitely wasn’t enough happening. Part of my problem was that I knew none of the references- be them art, literary, or facts about London. I was intrigued by the synopsis but the story did mitt deliver.

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A washed-up artist who has ruled his family, a wife who put up with his behavior to the detriment of her art career, and their dysfunctional adult children reunite for a show of the artist's work. This book was painful to read as there is not one likable character. Would love to discuss it with someone who appreciated it as this is clearly a book you will either love or hate.

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The Hanrahan family is coming up to a big weekend. Once famous artist, Ray Hanrahan, is having an exhibition for the first time in years. It’s a big deal, except that most everyone knows that Ray’s time is over and that it’s his wife, Lucia, who is the important artist now. Probably far more important than Ray has ever been, which doesn’t go over well for the egoist who believes whole-heartedly that the world revolves around him. Ray does not possess a selfless bone. He expects Lucia to permanently take a backseat to him, which she has done for years. She’s raised three kids and taken care of Ray through his many moods including the ones where he degrades her and says that she would be a nobody if it weren’t for him. Fortunately Lucia has her own secret, one that makes her happy beyond her art. How long she’ll be able to keep that happiness is questionable because the secret has an expiration date.

The three children are Patrick, a wannabe chef who may have the opportunity of a lifetime present itself to him if he could gather the courage to take it; Daddy’s girl beautiful Leah who seems to exist in the same dream world as her blinder-ridden father; and lastly Jess who had the wisdom to escape Ray’s orbit, find a life in Scotland, unfortunately with a possible fiancé who is far more enthralled with her father than she is. As they all come together for this momentous weekend, will their lives ever be the same again in Charlotte Mendelson’s biting The Exhibitionist?

When I read the final page, my first thought was: well that was a fun ride. Perhaps the build up was slow but the payout was worth it.

Yes, Ray is an unlikeable character. He’s supposed to be. He’s the type of man who has achieved moderate success, which attains a disproportionate size in his own mind, and who lives on that for the rest of his life, disregarding the lives, desires, wishes, hopes of those nearest and dearest (okay, we’re not positively certain he could ever regard someone as “dearest”). He sneers at the suggestion that he is anything but English–certainly not the Irish that his last name might suggest, and yet he must have traditional Sunday breakfast cake, which is not an English thing (or so my English housemate informed me) but may be an Irish one as they do have breakfast cake. He has built up an entire life that seems to only exist in his mind. Especially when there’s no money to support it.

It would be easy to write off the other characters as stereotypical, except then the reader wouldn’t feel the compunction that one does as one reads about Patrick who needs a heavy dose of courage or Leah who we can both dislike for her obsessive father-devotion and yet feel pity for because she hasn’t been out living her life and imagines amorous encounters where there are none; or Jess who’s been told so many times that she’s not the beautiful one and should be grateful for any man taking her on that she is reluctant to let a loveless situation go. And, even Lucia who would seem to be the long-suffering wife but who experiences wave after wave of guilt for never standing up for Patrick and even when she realizes that she never does, she still doesn’t. Yes, these are dysfunctional characters in a dysfunctional family but they are not caricatures by any means.

I appreciated the ironies, the subtle humor, the snark, the poignancy of characters striving to live in the shadow of a man who considers himself to be the sun but instead is a very cold space rock. While I welcome novels that do not spoon-feed the reader, I did wish for more at the end. I really wanted to know how it was all going to turn out in a month’s time.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a tough review to write. I think I liked the book more than a lot of people and yet it was so chaotic and frantic that I was mentally exhausted after each reading session. The book should come with a warning that it'll do your head in! My head was spinning reading descriptions of the Hanrahan house and the people in it. There definitely were moments of confusion as well because it was difficult to determine whose head we were in at times ... each one was pretty scary. Ray Hanrahan is definitely one of the most odious characters I've ever run across in fiction and I kept wishing someone would stand up to him. I was trying to decide what psychological description I'd assign to him and landed on "narcissist". Strangely enough I ran across some literature which described the different types of narcissist, one of which is "exhibitionist"! Coincidence or deliberate I wonder?! I honestly didn't find much humour in the story, maybe just an eyebrow raise now and then. The ending was rather abrupt but maybe there's going to be a sequel. Otherwise, readers need to decide for themselves what they think happens. Although I'm not big on ambiguous endings, I'm okay with this. 3.5 Stars rounded down.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press via Netgalley for the opportunity to read a copy of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Publication Date: July 4, 2023 (Originally published March 29, 2022)

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I enjoy reading books about family dynamics and characters coming to terms with their true selves, so the description of this book drew me in. It tells the story of the Hanrahan family—patriarch Ray, making his artistic comeback with an exhibition; matriarch Lucia, trying to make sense of her role both within and without her family; shy son Patrick, desperately working to hold himself together and do what is right; daddy’s girl Leah, putting her father and his wishes above everything else; and self-exiled Jess, the one who got away.

Though Ray tries to make everything about him (with Leah’s help), this book is really about Lucia. She is a woman who has put her family first, who has suffered tremendously, and who is abused. And she is a woman who struggles to reconcile her desire to stay faithful with her desire to break free.

The characters in this book are a mixed bag. I absolutely hated Ray, and by extension, Leah. The two of them are a toxic pair, propping up Ray’s narcissism. The rest of the family sit uncomfortably under Ray’s thumb.

I felt that the author did a great job showing the effects that this type of family situation can have on different types of children (and adults). Each character has their own issues that they are trying to work through, and it’s made clear that the combination of dominant, blustering Ray, and submissive, indecisive Lucia have perpetuated these issues in their children, to the point of crisis.

The plot of this book is slow-moving. The whole story takes place over a weekend, but at times, it felt like a slog. The reader is let in on each character’s inner life and is led (frustratingly) to dead ends when the characters fail to communicate clearly with each other.

Perhaps that is what the author was trying to do—show the cumulative damage and frustration of these types of personalities and relationships. If that was the goal, it was done well. Nothing in this book made me feel positive about these peoples’ futures.

By the time the book ends, each character is in a deeper mess than where they started, except maybe Lucia and Patrick—who seem to be breaking free, but not necessarily toward better things. So maybe they’re just in a different mess than where they started.

I think this book could be great for a reader who is interesting in negative and problematic family dynamics or the problems facing individuals who try to break free from relationships with narcissists. I also think the book could have accomplished all this in fewer pages, or perhaps at a quicker pace.

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I wanted to like this book - it is set in London's art world, with lots of characters in a dysfunctional family setting. What's not to like?
It just didn't move me at all. The characters were impossible to like or even feel anything for - 2.5 stars.

Thank you NetGalley for the chance to read and review this ARC.

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Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and Charlotte Mendelson for the ARC copy of this story.

This story left me angry. I understand that it is meant to be a comedy, but I feel like that was badly missed. I didn't find anything at all funny about this book. Of all books that I have read and all characters in those books, Ray is easily one of my least liked. He is terrible!

I would have liked to see a better plot, I'm still not entirely sure what the plot should have been aside from Ray being terrible to his family. I would have liked to see some sort of character grown from other characters. It is an extremely slow and drawn out book.

Sadly, I didn't enjoy anything about it and would not recommend.

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