Curious Earth
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Curious Earth

by Gerard Woodward
     
 

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In this successor to his Man Booker Prize finalist, Gerard Woodward slyly pits defiant Aldous Jones against the hazards of aging.
Left with an empty house after the death of his wife, Aldous Jones is tempted to spend the whole day sitting in his chair in the kitchen. But with admirable determination he resumes old pastimes until, one day, wandering London, he is

Overview

In this successor to his Man Booker Prize finalist, Gerard Woodward slyly pits defiant Aldous Jones against the hazards of aging.
Left with an empty house after the death of his wife, Aldous Jones is tempted to spend the whole day sitting in his chair in the kitchen. But with admirable determination he resumes old pastimes until, one day, wandering London, he is surprised to find a painting that holds him completely in its spell. Rembrandt's portrait of his housekeeper-turned-mistress, Hendrijcke Stoffels, awakens Jones's desire for a new life, a new woman, sex, and companionship. It leads him to Belgium to stay with his bohemian son, to evening language classes, and through a series of slightly misguided relationships until eventually he meets his Hendrijcke. As The Guardian writes, this work is "brave, funny, and beautifully written, as perceptive about Rembrandt and Shakespeare as it is about evening classes, potato tubers sprouting in neglected cupboards and the accumulated detritus of family life."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Woodward's I'll Go to Bed at Noonand Augustwere Man Booker and Whitbread finalists, respectively. In his warmly comedic latest, Aldous Jones, following the death of his wife, has retired as an art teacher and begun declining into a fetid self-imposed exile on London's Fernlight Avenue. Daughter Juliette's exasperated comment on Aldous's having "failed" when he gave up painting long ago rouses him to visit the National Gallery, where he makes a life-changing reacquaintance with a lusty Rembrandt portrait. Son Julian's seeming unraveling and Aldous's short hospital stay following a fall prompt Aldous to visit Julian in Ostend, Belgium; there, a madcap series of encounters ensue with much younger women, one of whom inspires him as the Rembrandt portrait does. Upon returning to London, an inspired Aldous enrolls in a language class, paints madly, travels the city with various odd companions and houses his son James and James's family, leading to further adventures. Persistent themes of aging, illness and art are seamlessly woven in via Woodward's slowly paced and beautifully written prose. Aldous is at once endearing, sad and inspiring, and he's given a vibrant set of foils in the flamboyant supporting cast. His subtle and understated deterioration is funny, haunting and human. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

In this third in the author's series of witty novels about an eccentric and driven English family (after I'll Go To Bed at Noonand August), the family patriarch, retired art teacher Aldous Jones, is trying unsuccessfully to adjust to his new status as an aging widower. More or less in a continuous stupor, Aldous spends his time drinking heavily and settling into a vegetative state not much removed from the potato plants he has permitted to grow in a neglected cupboard-until the sight of a beloved Rembrandt painting captures his imagination, revives his flagging libido, and sends him off in search of romance and adventure. Following a memorable visit to his son in the bohemian quarter of Ostend, Belgium, Aldous pursues love and art with an intensity that spreads sound and fury among relatives, neighbors, and beyond. Rich in humor and pathos, this comedy of modern urban life with its richly defined main character will have wide appeal among readers of literary fiction. Recommended for most collections.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Lonely old English widower makes various attempts to get a life. Aldous Jones, pushing 70, lives alone in a largish house in North London. We have met his family before, in I'll Go To Bed At Noon (2004), a Man Booker finalist, where the focus was on his wife, Colette, and son, Janus, a raging alcoholic. Now, in the Thatcherite 1980s, Colette and Janus are dead, and two other sons live overseas; only his daughter Juliette still resides in London. Aldous, a retired high-school art teacher, is a borderline alcoholic himself. Juliette scolds him for his frequent nips of whisky and points out helpfully that he smells bad. It is she who finds him unconscious after his first fall. A brief hospital stay and a visit with his son Julian in Ostend, Belgium, revive his spirits. The high point is a bohemian party where he nuzzles an exotic black female artist. A trip to Amsterdam is ruined, though, when the woman turns up with her hitherto unmentioned husband. Back in London, another romantic possibility looms when Aldous meets middle-aged Maria in a class on Flemish for Beginners. True, she's an airhead and a philistine, but Aldous seems to be making progress until she stands him up. Woodward stacks the deck against poor Aldous, making him an uninteresting victim. There's another dash of the exotic when his other son, James, an anthropologist, descends on him, with his Amazonian Indian wife and child in tow; but after their departure, Aldous is still the same lonely imbiber. He pursues Maria into the workplace, joining her as a volunteer at a school for blind kids, but this leads to disaster as he blurts out a marriage proposal (yes, he's been drinking), has another fall and is fired. His finalproject, converting part of his house into an art gallery, offers some black comedy which doesn't quite work. A low-key, dreary portrait of old age.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393330977
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/17/2008
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.68(d)

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Meet the Author

Gerard Woodward is the author of the Booker Prize finalist I’ll Go to Bed at Noon and A Curious Earth. He was born in London in 1961, and published several prize-winning collections of poetry before turning to fiction.He is a professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University andlives in Bath, England.

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