A Curious Earth
You don't need to have read Gerard Woodward's previous two novels, "August" and "I'll Go To Bed At Noon", to fall in love with this one, and its wonderfully fallible hero, Aldous Jones. Having hovered at the periphery of the previous books, Aldous comes into his own in the heartbreakingly funny story of an old man whose wife has died, whose children have left home, but who still wants to live life to the full. Left with an empty house and cupboards full of hoarded odds and ends that seem to have nothing to do with him, Aldous is tempted to spend the whole day sitting in his chair in the kitchen. But with admirable determination, he resolutely resumes old pastimes until, one day, wandering London with his bus pass, he is surprised to find in the National Gallery a painting that holds him completely in its spell. Rembrandt's portrait of his housekeeper turned mistress, Hendrijcke Stoffels, awakens in Aldous the desire for a new life, a new woman, sex and companionship that will lead him to Ostende to stay with his bohemian son, to Flemish evening classes, and through a series of slightly misguided relationships with sympathetic women until eventually he meets his Hendrijcke in an ending of devastating poignancy. It is hard to name another contemporary novelist who can write with such beauty about the small details of domestic life whilst, at the same time, showing us human nature in all its many guises. In "A Curious Earth", Woodward has written a book that will bring him new readers and provide for his loyal fans the perfect ending to a series of books that has led them from birth to death with sheer brilliance.