In 2014, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize worked with the Regional Literature Development Agencies to find reading groups across the UK to read the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning titles.
Vanishing by Gerard Woodward was read by the Bush House Reading Group from London and below are reviews from its reading group members.
We enjoyed several aspects of this book, especially the historical background. The detail of camouflage operations in North Africa during WWII was fascinating and based on real events. Also few of us had ever considered what was in the region of Heathrow before the airport was built or indeed whether such a huge airport could ever have been built without the use of wartime powers. Some of us will now think about this every time we use Heathrow. The book is also laugh-out-loud funny in places, especially when Kenneth tries the art of seduction combined with ornithology.
The Group was divided on the structure of the book. Some readers found it disjointed but others enjoyed the unfolding life story intermingled with the trial that begins and ends the book. After all the past constantly informs and distorts the present.
Gerard Woodward writes well. Some of the descriptions are really beautiful, for example: “My lips had flown across the surface of his body like a flounder over a seabed, exploring every golden outcrop and fleshy prominence.” Life between the wars on the heath was also well presented, especially the delicately drawn child’s eye view of the horrifically wounded war veteran, Roddy.
There was a feeling that the plot got more and more outrageous as time went on and there was just too much going on. However this added to the deliberate picture of a man who lost the ability to see what was in front of him. We were left in lively disagreement about what if anything we could believe from this unreliable narrator who in hiding his own feelings from himself and others landed himself in some life threatening scrapes.
Read more about our reading group projects here.