Skip to content Skip to main menu

An excerpt from'The Family Whistle'

It had been a good day for Florian. She had had some success in the shops, being among the first in the queue when she heard that there was some real coffee for sale in Faber's, and had managed to buy half a kilo of Arabica. Then she had found some white silk stockings in Schmidt's, and didn't even have to queue for them. On her way back, she had dropped quickly into her husband's bar on the Promenadeplatz, and had shown him, in a furtive moment while she sat at a table chatting with hisweatherworn manageress Myra, the stockings, and he had given her a quick, appreciative kiss, promising he would bring home something good when they closed that afternoon. But then he always did, even if it was a single sweet pastry left over from the day, or one slice of black ham.

By means of such little luxuries they felt richer than they had ever been before the war, even though, by any acceptedstandards, they were far poorer.

By means of such little luxuries they felt richer than they had ever been before the war

By the time Florian got home to their third floor apartment on Max Joseph Strasse, closing the reassuringly solid oak door behind her, it would be just half an hour or so before Wilhelm returned. She may as well have waited in the cafe so the ycould have gone home together.

But Wilhelm never liked her doing this, since she always got involved in the clearing up. Florian enjoyed helping, but Wilhelm had always insisted that his own wife should never be an employee, no matter how casual.

Florian went into the dining room and placed her gleanings of the day on the table, laying them out like a little trove.

She spent a while arranging them as though she was an artist preparing a still life. The tin of coffee formed the centrepiece. The silk stockings, still folded, shimmered beside it. A packet of eggs. A handful of black cherries. A block of butter. Everything so perfect, beautiful, promising. She really wished she was an artist.

There was a knock at the door. A quiet, rather tentative knock, like the one a nervous child, expecting to be told off, might give. Was Wilhelm back so early- had he forgotten his key? It had happened once or twice before, so Florian went straight to the door and opened it.

There was a man standing outside. Tall but desperately thin. He had vague, hollow eyes and his cheeks were sucked in. He was wearing a nearly new, unbuttoned great coat over filthy, tattered clothing.

A little bit about Gerard Woodward

longlist

Gerard Woodward was born in London in 1961 and studied art and anthropology. He has published five poetry collections including We Were Pedestrians (2005), which was shortlisted for the 2005 T.S. Eliot Prize. His 2004 novel I’ll Go To Bed At Noon was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Woodward lives in Bath, where he is Professor of Fiction at Bath Spa University and Director of its Contemporary Writing Centre.


See the full Shortlist