Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 11, 2010

Nourishment (2010), by Gerard Woodward

Well, I had a Senior’s Moment in the bookshop today, and I still can’t quite believe that I shelled out $32.95 of my hard-earned money on this book.  I was running late for a hairdresser’s appointment, and my Kindle’s battery was flat so I raced into the bookshop to buy something to read while the potions and lotions took effect.

In my haste I confused Gerard Woodward with Gerard Windsor.  Windsor is a highly regarded Australian author – I have a couple of his books on my TBR ( Heaven Where The Bachelors Sit (1996) and I Asked Cathleen To Dance (1999) – and I thought, oh good, a new one, grabbed it and dashed off for my appointment.

Only to discover that what I had so recklessly bought instead was a book that gets my nomination for The Silliest Book of the Year. I read 100 pages of Nourishment while captive at the hairdresser and I have to say that it is unmitigated rubbish.  It has an utterly unconvincing and inane plot, cardboard characters and prose so pedestrian it could have been written by Enid Blyton.  

In a nutshell, a WW2 POW writes home to his wife, requesting that she write back to him in a salacious way to assuage his sexual fantasies while he’s locked up.  A prim and rather boring person, she can’t do this, until she takes a lover, and then she does it with delight.  There are various twists on the theme of nourishment for both body and soul, including a gratuitous instance of possible cannibalism when Tory Pace and her mother eat what might be the body parts of their butcher, blown up by a Nazi bomb. 

I have since discovered that this Woodward was nominated for the Booker, but I don’t care – nothing will induce me to spend my time or money on a book by this author ever again! 

Tom Cunliffe at A Common Reader was distinctly unimpressed, but (amazingly) John Self writing for The Blurb  admired it for its risk-taking qualities. 

Author: Gerard Woodward
Title: Nourishment
Publisher: Picador, 2010
ISBN: 9780330519946
Source: Personal library, but not for long. It’s going down to the Op Shop, unfinished!


  1. It’s a couple of months since I wrote my review and perhaps I wasn’t hard enough on the book! (Although I panned it). I agree with your assessment and am only sorry that you spent too much money on it! We readers do acquire the occasional blooper though, don’t we?!


    • I think I must have been away overseas when you reviewed it, Tom – otherwise (Seniors’ Moment notwithstanding) alarm bells would have rung when I saw the title!
      I unsubscribed from all the blogs I read regularly while I was away (to reduce the ISP cost of downloading the notifications) and obviously I missed out on some posts, including, alas, your one about this book.
      I can’t understand John Self – he says he loved it. I think his blog Asylum is brilliant, and the only reason I don’t subscribe to it is that none of the books he revews are ever available here, and it was costing me a fortune at the Book Depository – every time he blogged a book I ordered it! But his judgement about Nourishment seems bizarre to me…


  2. LOL Lisa – love your parting shot … Kevin from Canada rather liked it but he does say that if you don’t like that style of absurdity don’t read it. He also says he’s not concerned it missed the Booker shortlist, though it wouldn’t have been sorry if it had. Me? I’ve never heard of him and with all on my shelf I probably won’t check it out to see who I agree with.


    • Hi Sue, I must have missed Kevin’s review as well…
      I don’t think it’s written in an ‘abusrdist style’. I think it was written for the raunch culture market… They can have it!


  3. I laughed out loud at your posting – I can just see me doing that and being so aggravated. You handled it well – gave me a laugh. I think there’s no danger of my buying the book.



    • Hi Bekah, I can see the funny side of it myself now…


  4. It was also the way you said it, Lisa. You write so well.



  5. Now, now Lisa — it is one thing to dislike the book, but “raunch, culture market” is entirely unfair. In fact, I thought it to be a quite rewarding “absurdist” book with much to recommend it. Having said that, books like that — however good they might be in their niche — are not for everyone.


    • Did you review it, Kevin? Of course, as I say, I haven’t read it all, but gosh, it did seem to me as if it was created entirely as an opportunity to write about sex. (Badly)
      It reminded me of the way primary school children think they’re terribly hilarious when they use ‘rude’ words.


      • Lisa: I did review it and concluded:

        ” Gerard Woodward is an author who asks readers to join him in a dis-connected journey and in each stage he goes into some detail beyond the obvious plot. If that is not the kind of fiction that you like, avoid the book. If it interests you at all, do pick up this volume.”

        Full review is here .

        So I would like to think that I at least postulated that some people would not like this book at all. Since you are not going to finish the book (but this is a SPOILER for those who might try it), the “sex” of the first section (and the resulting letters) turns into a quite hilarious disaster in the latter part of the book. At least for those of us who like this kind of fiction (Will Rycroft today put it on his books of the year list.)


  6. Well, Kevin, I enjoyed your review – but am unrepentant about dishing the book. I don’t mind disconnected journeys, I’ve read and enjoyed BS Johnson’s The Unfortunates – and you can’t get much more disconnected than that (unless you count Finnegan’s Wake on my TBR LOL). I minded the crassness of Nourishment and the slapstick elements. Maybe because my father’s house was one of those obliterated, not to mention people who would have been relations of mine if they hadn’t been killed, I don’t have much of a sense of humour about the Blitz.
    So we’ll have to agree to disagree – but thank you for pointing me to William Rycroft’s blog. I’ll keep an eye on it.


  7. Ah, this is why I love book bloggers so much! I saw Kevin’s review yesterday and thought the book would probably be something I’d like, then I come here today and see you detested it! This means I *must* read it to see which camp I will fall into!


    • *chuckle*
      You have been warned!


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