Cover Image: The Exhibitionist

The Exhibitionist

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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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This book was a slog. I felt it was very montonal and the only reason I pushed through it was to see if it got any better. The characters were rather dull and I was really underwhelmed. I had really high hopes but this one just didn't hot any marks for me.
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This book about a hugely dis functional family just didn’t resonate with me. The family was unforgivingly whiny way beyond their circumstances.  Yes, it was satire. But to me it just wasn’t funny.
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The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson

This is a quirky story about a highly dysfunctional family led by feared patriarch Ray. The artist has the family preparing for a showing of his artwork, which no one has seen. Everyone trembles at Ray’s demands of perfection, especially his subjugated wife, Lucia, a talented artist in her own right.

Doting daughter Leah answers her father’s every beck and call, while the others manage to carry on in spite of him. The many characters gather for the weekend to support Ray, with a head spinning amount of activity going on in the story. Half finished, interrupted thoughts and sentences make for very disjointed conversations; purposeful, by the author, I imaging, to add to the chaos. 

I thank #StMartinsPress and #NetGalley for this ARC, which I hesitate to recommend, but give three stars because I know there is an audience for this book somewhere.
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THE EXHIBITIONIST by Charlotte Mendelson is a story of extreme family dysfunction set against the backdrop of the competitive art world. Set in North London over a long weekend in 2010, it is a snapshot of the Hanrahan family as their complicated relationships unravel spectacularly. The patriarch, Ray, was once a somewhat famous artist, but he hasn’t produced anything recently. His wife, Lucia, is a talented artist in her own right, but she has given up every chance of success to avoid upsetting her outrageously egotistical and narcissistic husband, who views every accomplishment by Lucia as a betrayal. In a desperate attempt to revive his career, Ray plans an elaborate exhibition and daughter, Leah, his right-hand woman and staunch supporter, invites all their family, friends and art dignitaries. What could go wrong? Bring together Ray’s emotionally fragile stepson, Patrick, his exiled daughter, Leah, her boyfriend, Martyn and a cast of other secondary characters and you have the makings of a dramatic fallout. I found it hard to get into this book, mostly because of the despicable character of Ray. He was such a horrible, abusive bully and I couldn’t fathom how not one of his family ever stood up to him. I normally enjoy a dysfunctional family drama, but this one missed the mark for me. Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy.
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Lucia is married to Ray and has been for many years they have three children Lucia and Ray or both Artist she is giving up a lot of things including a career for her husband and has spent a lot of time Faning his ego and trying to convince him he is right to look down on her and he deserves all the praise and her none. Despite her dad‘s abuse and the glut their daughter cannot help but to be on team dead and think her mom could do nothing right. Eventually however love and success will come to Lucia and it is well deserved and she could’ve had one without the other. There were many times in this book I thought “what the hell are you doing Lucia?“ as mothers we give a lot of for our children and a little to our husbands but she went above and beyond I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you love literary fiction at its best then you will adore this book just as much. This book totally puts across the message that we teach people how to treat us so if someone is abusive or negative in the beginning nip that in the bud… Quickly! You have to respect yourself before you can expect others to respect you. What a great book! A definite five star read! Please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review. I want to thank net galley and the publisher for my ARC copy.
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The Exhibitionist
By Charlotte Mendelson
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pub Date: 7.4.23

I usually love stories with dysfunctional families, and I don’t even mind unlikeable characters if they are interesting and well-developed. But this story was jumping all over and I was having a hard time putting things together - but maybe I wasn’t catching onto the dark humor.

Ray, the family patriarch is manipulative and narcissistic. His wife, Lucia is having a secret affair with a woman politician. Still, Lucia’s rising success as an artist infuriates Ray, as he was once an artist himself. 

Their adult children, one at home, one readying to flee and one having escaped make for messy conflicts that had promise but it just didn’t fall into place. 

As I said, in theory, the premise is something I should have enjoyed, but I just couldn’t find my bearings within the narrative. 

Thank you to @stmartinspress for a gifted ebook and for a complimentary audiobook.
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The world revolves around Ray Hanrahan. Or at least that’s what his family believes. He is a genius, he is an artist, he is proud. He is a narcissistic asshole. This is the story of family dynamics over the course of a single, monumental weekend as the group prepares for Ray’s first art exhibition in decades. Tensions are high, tempers are short and the family trauma will be on display for all to see if they can’t all keep it together.

This book is not really about Ray Hanrahan, but how his family revolves around him. He is a narcissist and once, semi-famous artist that is staging a comeback. But the narrative is formed through the eyes of the rest of the family: Lucia, the wife; Patrick, the step-son; Leah, the oldest of Ray’s children; and Jess, the youngest daughter. Everyone has their own perspective on the family dynamic and the tension and conflict that come from this make for a compelling narrative.

That said, the writing style takes some getting used to. The reader is always in the rapid thoughts of one family member or another and is often left to piece together context clues to get the full picture of what people are talking about. Often people complain that dialogue is written in an unnatural way and observe “people don’t speak that way,” well, this is written like you are walking into a party of people who have all known each other for decades and you are trying to catch on to their group vernacular. 

This is an interesting book and it kept me glued to the page once I figured out how to read it, but I don’t know who exactly I would recommend this book to. Do you like stressful stories about toxic family dynamics? Do you like a book that feels almost, but not quite postmodern in its style? Do you like a book that purposefully makes you anxious and angry? If you answer yes to any of these questions, I guess try The Exhibitionist.
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Rarely have I developed such strong hatred for a character in a book but Ray Hanrahan certainly took the prize.  His narcissism and total disregard for his family especially was so over the top.  The story covers an exhibit where he will be sharing his art.  Each of his family members attending have their own issues and insecurities that add to the tension created.  Usually I find tension to be a positive influence on a story but in this case I thought it detracted from the story.  I was unable to form a connection with any of the characters and felt that the exaggeration in each of their stories served as distractions as well.  Several times I was tempted to give up on this read but decided it had to have redeeming qualities so I did finish.  
The core of the premise, especially the long term effects a narcissist can cause in others, is such a powerful storyline that I wish Mendelson would have focused on this making each character, except Ray of course, more relatable, in the process showing Ray as the monster he was.  Then the reader would be left with a true message.  
Many thanks to Charlotte Mendelson, Mantle Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this soon to be published read.
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The Exhibitionist could be ''furiously funny'' and a well written clever book but for me I tapped out at 25%. I don't dnf books lightly especially ones provided in lieu of an honest review but this one just didn't work for me.  I struggled with even picking it up and getting more than 5 pages read at a time.  The heavy prose writing style was too meandering and chaotic for my liking. I found it a bit hard to follow or connect to the story.  I didn't find anything funny, although I do believe this is more satire than laugh out loud kind of humor.  Characters were flat and unlikable, with all that said.. lots of folks enjoy the novel and I'm sure it was long listed for women's prize for fiction 2022 for a reason. It's just not my thing. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read and review honestly an advanced digital copy.
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The Exhibitionist is a story of a dysfunctional family. The main character, Lucia, has given up her entire career and dreams for her husband. Her children have taken sides, and every single person suffers.

I was extremely close to giving up on this novel. Had I not been a reader who does not   DNF books mostly, I persevered and completed this book. Since I am a mental health professional, I can see the trauma everywhere in this book. But it gave me a huge headache, and this book, with all its descriptions and extremely prose heavy narrations, is way too long. It could have been way shorter, and I feel that the author has put all the elements of a dysfunctional family to make this book interesting. Sadly, all it did for me was give me a headache. I hate Ray with everything that I have, so the author did an amazing job of creating this character for sure.

Thank you, St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for this book.

CW: Narcissism, emotional abuse, cancer, parental alienation
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This book may  come out on the 4th of July but it sure didn’t set off any fireworks for me. The characters were unlikable to the point of annoying me every time I picked up the book. I finally quit picking it up. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital ARC. I am sorry that I have nothing nice to say.
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I really wanted to enjoy this book but I found it horribly insufferable.  The characters alone made me want to stop reading this book and throw it somewhere no one could find it.  I was really disappointed in the entire endeavor.  I always want a book to bring out strong emotions in me.  This one did that. Just the wrong ones.
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A fallen artist who has turned his wife and children into people who should appease and applause him, instead of  critiquing him so he can improve and be the artist he once was. In the course of a week and through the weekend we get everyone's point of view in this tale of needing to stop a toxic father and his potential threat on the next generation. He expects more from one daughter in particular and that's not fair to any of them 
Especially to mom, who is not only the better parent but the better artist too. We read and turn the page hoping this is the chapter where she puts Ray in his place. 
This is not a feel good family novel. It is a look at the inner working of a family with each person saying, "Hey! All eyes on me."
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I’m disappointed by this one. It sounded so interesting based on the description but it was just really bland and felt like nothing happened? I don’t know. I wanted more.
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