In the first two volumes of the confessedly semi-autobiographical trilogy that A Curious Earth now brings to a close, Gerard Woodward told the story of a family whose dysfunction – a mixture of passion, self-destructiveness and absurdity – could not fail to hold the reader in thrall. What almost all the family members have in common is alcoholism not merely as a genetic disorder but also as an infection that can be passed on to outsiders. In the first book, August, the mother, Colette, is sniffing glue; by the second, I’ll Go to Bed at Noon, she is swigging barley wine. Her brother constantly drinks himself into a stupor, and through booze her eldest son destroys both his career as a promising composer and eventually, descending into criminality and violence, himself.
Woodward takes up the story with Colette now dead, and the children dispersed from the North London family home. In a constant daze from drinking whisky in the squalor of a chaotic kitchen, Colette’s widower Aldous is staggering his way to seemingly inevitable oblivion. Then, miraculously, the sight in the