Francis King

Ostend and Back

A Curious Earth

By

Chatto & Windus 290pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

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. 

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