The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson review – scenes from a marriage

The author’s very funny fifth novel, about two artists and their toxic relationship, deserves its place on the Women’s prize longlist

It’s a modern mystery why Charlotte Mendelson, one of the funniest writers in Britain, isn’t a bestseller (though she has just been longlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction). Her new novel is so devoid of secondhand sentences that it’s quite possible she spent all nine years since its predecessor polishing her jokes and turning phrases round until they shine.

The Exhibitionist is about artists: a popular subject for novelists, who get to write about the creative process in a slightly more glamorous field than their own. It has two focal points: one is Ray Hanrahan, an ageing painter who is a reminder that not every overlooked artist deserves a renaissance. Ray – obstreperous, self-involved (“Soon he’ll be in the bath with his accessories: the paper and a large bacon sandwich”) – is the physical centre of his ramshackle London house, where “what Ray insists are just very big mice have tunnelled into the compost bin”.

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