With her children evacuated and her husband at the front, Tory Pace is grudgingly sharing the family home with her irascible mother; working at the local gelatine factory – to help the war effort – and generally doing just about as well as could be expected in difficult times. Her quiet life is thrown into turmoil, however, when her prisonerofwar husband, Donald, makes an outrageous demand for sexual gratification. He wants a dirty letter, by return of post! Horrified, at first, that Donald is being turned into some sort of monster by the Nazis, Tory’s disgust gradually gives way to a sense of marital duty, and taking in the libraries, bookshops, public conveniences and barbers’ shops of SouthEast London, she begins a quest to master the language of carnal desire: a quest that takes a sudden and unexpected turn into far more dangerous territory. Beginning with an act of unintentional cannibalism, and flirting with a scheme to end world hunger by the use of protein pills, Nourishment ranges widely across the Continent and yet always returns home: to family, to people, to relationships. Woodward offers a prescient examination of the ways in which we both nurture and consume each other in the face of adversity.
In Island to Island, his third collection of poetry for Chatto, Gerard Woodward ventures into more hostile, less familiar territory. An Arabian desert, the moon, thinly-populated archipelagos are all visited in what emerges as an investigation into the nature of social space. A giraffe trapper finds that a successful trap must closely resemble a giraffe's own home; the 'suburban glass' of starter-home conservatories glazes and crysallises the lives of newly-weds. With his characteristic exuberance and ability to stand the world on its head, Woodward combines tichly imagined poems about half-invented lands with poetry that transforms the ordinary into the fantastical, where baths become oceans and ceilings lunar landscapes. Nor is the body exempt from this exploration of borders and limits. In one poem, two 'gurning' contestants find that they've overstepped some boundary of humanness and in 'The Madness of Heracles', a long retelling of the myth of the twelve labours, human strength is put to the test in a poem which evolves into a rhapsody of love, loss, toil and redemption.
With the publication of his first book, HOUSEHOLDER, Gerard Woodward emerged as one of the most talented and unusual new poets of the 1990s. In his forthcoming collection AFTER THE DEAFENING, Woodward's powerful imagination, and the details of everyday life take on an extraordinary and exotic significance. 'A kind of punk anthropologist, his unsettling imagination violates all the thresholds between inner and outer. ' LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS 'Vivid and rarely whimsical' OBSERVER 'There are enough poems in this collection which are both felt AND written to justify Woodward's claim on our attention. Where he exhibits emotional generosity, he is very good indeed. ' Carol Ann Duffy
There is no such thing as an ordinary life. But Kenneth Brill's is more extraordinary than most. By the time he is arrested for espionage towards the end of the Second World War he has an incredible story to tell.Under interrogation he describes his unusual childhood, shares the decadent details of his training as a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art in the 1930s and explains just why he was so very friendly with the prostitutes of London's Soho underworld; he narrates his heroic actions as a camouflage officer before El Alamein, when he helped pull off one of the greatest acts of deception in the history of warfare, and accounts for his part in a night-time break-in of the royal residence of Buckingham Palace.This is a life lived to the full, whether as son, friend, lover, teacher or pupil. The only question is: whose side is he really on?'A huge, complex novel, at turns both blackly funny and bleakly moving, driven by truly original characters' Daily Mail'Clever, subtle, and rewarding' Times Literary Supplement
Gerard Woodward's poetry has long been admired for its sharp and unflinching eye, its fearless surrealism, its blacker-than-black humour, and its ability to find a little abyss in any detail, no matter how innocuous or domestic. Here, his considerations of trampolines, bird-tables and lightbulbs will leave the reader unable to regard those things in quite the same way again; they will also find science-fiction novels compressed to a few stanzas, strange potted biographies, and lists of edicts from long-dead tyrants. However, The Seacunny finds this inimitable voice extend itself in new and unexpected directions, with the poet turning to the natural world and to human relationships in ways that are affecting as they are surprising. This is a book of astonishing range, and declares a new lyric direction in Woodward's poetry.
'Hugely enjoyable' John Boyne
'Contemporary family drama at its most compelling, and with a brutally exquisite ending' Nathan Filer
'I couldn't put it down till I was done' Nikita LalwaniArnold Proctor's quiet life is thrown off balance when he falls obsessively in love with Vera, a religious woman and one of his wife's friends. Vera seems untroubled by her wrongdoing, yet faithless Arnold is wracked with guilt. He has never believed in God, but now he wonders if he truly believes in anything at all?Polly makes handcrafted paper, and even though the age of paper is dead, she runs a successful shop selling her exquisite products. Polly is secure and happy in her life, until the day her husband Arnold makes a very uncharacteristic declaration.The Paper Lovers is a devastating story of sexual, religious and artistic obsession. It is about love and betrayal, and what becomes of us after our greatest certainties have been shattered.