Nourishment by Gerard Woodward

Picador: paperback published 2010: 339 pages

The English are an unusual bunch: quirky and eccentric, often reserved and reticent, but always strong and resilient. Tory Pace, the heroine of this beautiful written and hilarious black comedy, is all of these things. Typically, she’s trying to make the best of life in a difficult time: struggling, as only a mother can, to sustain her family in a land starved of nourishment. But like so many triumphs over adversity, her survival comes with a heavy price.

Beginning shortly after the outbreak of war and continuing into the deftly drawn austerity years that followed, Woodward offers a generous family saga. Equally memorable for poignant moments of sadness, comic tableaux, witty observations and unforgettable characters, Nourishment is a novel like no other – every bit as unique and charming as an English family, in fact.


Gerard Woodward was a Creative Writing tutor at Bath Spa university – my old haunt. Although I was never in his class, I would occasionally come across him around campus, or hear stories from his students in the Student Union bar. He’s quick-witted and sharp-tongued and I’ve always been recommended to read his books by fellow students – and I trust their opinion implicitly.

The story has a brief arc, stretched out for 339 pages. This is no bad thing, it allows the reader to delve deeper into the story as it runs, and learn about the characters. Some of it is deeply moving, whilst other bits strangely comical. It’s an entertaining read, with bits that haunt you after you’ve finished reading. There are intriguing twists and turns, that although aren’t surprising, add discord and push the characters.

The strength of Woodward’s work is in its characters. They are flawed and tangible, and ask questions of the reader. This is definitely a black comedy – with equal amounts of humour and poignancy. Oddly enough, I didn’t see Woodward’s charisma in the writing – I thought I would have had more of a feel of the author, but then perhaps that’s a sign of a good writer. Maybe I’m just sad because I wanted to feel that I was reading something written by someone I knew.

Overall, an entertaining read, but a once off. I’ll definitely try more Gerard Woodward though! There are plenty of books out there for me to enjoy, smug in the knowledge that I brushed shoulders with this author.

Rating: 7/10

Next book: I began with starting on The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (who I adore) … but there were problems. My brain, befuddled and fried by work and a whole pile of hectic days couldn’t get around the opening page. So I went back to my bookshelves and vowed I’d read the next book I laid my hand on. It turned out to be Any Human Heart by William Boyd. A fictional diary account of a young boy, growing up during the biggest events in the 20th Century, I’ve heard lots of good things about William Boyd, which is why I had the book on my shelf. Having started it – I have no idea why I didn’t read it sooner! I’m hooked!


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