August

Gerard Woodward, Author . Norton $14.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-393-33271-1

Shortlisted for the Whitbread in 2001, Woodward's novel is the first in a trilogy focusing on the expansive, deeply troubled Jones family. (The books have been published out of sequence in the U.S.) An accident on a Welsh bicycling tour in 1955 leads Aldous Jones to discover the farm that will be the site of subsequent holidays. Every summer that follows, Aldous pitches tents for his rapidly burgeoning young family in the pastures of the good-natured, seemingly unchangeable Evans family, which serves as an annual mirror for the Joneses. Alas, Jones family life, despite its simple joys of mountain climbing, practical jokes and bicycling, is not nearly so idyllic as among the Evans clan. Eldest Jones son Janus, a brilliant pianist, develops dark fixations and antisocial tendencies. Aldous's wife, Colette, originally a vivacious, nurturing mother, rapidly descends into drug use. Quiet, unassuming Aldous, the figure at the eye of so much drama, becomes the novel's most compelling character only near its anticlimactic, elegiac end. Woodward's vision of family life is bleak indeed; although tempered by moments of levity, whimsy and descriptions of the lovely landscape, the narrative is virtually devoid of solace or redemption, finding only heartbreak in familial evolution. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
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