Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Nourishment by Gerard Woodward
Tory Pace has sent her three children to the Cotswolds to escape the bombs and lives with her mother, Emily Head, at 17 Peter Street in London. While Tory works at a gelatine factory, Mrs Head gets on with keeping the house and cooking the meals.
The first part of the book is darkly humorous. Dandos, the butcher shop, is bombed and in fabulous detail the author paints a picture of rashers of bacon strewn everywhere. Mrs Head spies a joint of meat in the rubble and slips it into her mesh bag to roast for the evening meal. The trouble is, nobody has found the body of the butcher! Eating dinner could prove to be an act of cannibalism and I was riveted by each poke of the knife.
Tory's husband, Donald, has been captured by the Nazis and is now a POW. He is allowed to write heavily-censored letters home and has the oddest request...he asks Tory to write erotic letters, the racier the better. Quite beside herself with repugnance and embarrassment she skirts the issue by writing back using gardening as a metaphor for sex.
'Darling, imagine me as a sagging crimson rose that wants watering. Imagine yourself as the gardener, walking up the path to my dry rose bed, with a watering-can, full to the lip with water...'
Donald is not impressed and responds...'I did not ask you for an essay on the art of managing my allotment.'
George Farraway owns the gelatine factory and takes an interest in Tory and an affair is soon in full bloom. Finding herself pregnant she decides to pass the baby off as one she discovered in the dusty rubble of a bombed home in Leicester. It's one thing to convince the neighbours but quite another when Donald is liberated and the children are brought home from the Cotswolds. And what's more they have come home with West Country accents. They have some pretty tough questions and her son, Tom, even goes so far as to suggest his mother has been kidnapped and replaced by an impostor!
Up until this point the book is witty, hilarious, entertaining, whimsical and darkly comedic...I loved it. Unfortunately, after that it lost its spark for me. Donald is understandably changed but nasty beyond caring about and a tragedy brought my mood down even further.
The title suggests the different types of nourishment people need in order to thrive and the result when it is absent. Woodward had an entertaining story going but he lost me along the way. And just in case you're wondering, there really isn't anything too suggestive in the book so don't let that put you off.