Hungry hearts

Hungry hearts

It’s a pleasant surprise to see Gerard Woodward’s Nourishment out in India so soon after its UK release. Woodward has always been on the cusp of literary stardom, holding his own in—if not always winning out—the prize stakes against contemporary giants such as Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Toibín, but in spite of fulsome praise for his Jones trilogy (August, I’ll Go to Bed at Noon and A Curious Earth), he has always been the sort of author more likely to be found in British Council libraries than Crosswords. In fact, if there is such a thing as the quintessential British Council novel—a novel acutely self-conscious of its late 20th century Britishness—then Woodward’s newest might just typify it.

But nourishment takes varying forms. When Donald Pace writes home to his wife Tory asking for “a dirty letter, by return of post", and then keeps insisting—returning her initial timid responses (“NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!")—Tory’s helpless embarrassment turns to anger, and inevitably, to success. In her emotional resourcefulness, Tory seems to find a particularly English solution to a particularly English tradition of sexual shame. But not everyone in her family is as resolute as her, and as the war ends and the Paces spend the next decade coming to grips with its damages, not everyone succeeds in saving themselves and their relationships. This is where Woodward’s careful construction of his main theme, of how family relationships can nourish and starve people alike, comes into full flower.

And for those interested, I am sorry to disappoint you: There is no actual erotica in the book.

Nourishment,

Gerard Woodward,

Pan Macmillan India,

240 pages, 615.

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