Cover image for Altered land
Altered land
Hardy, Jules, 1958-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade Pub. : Distributed by AOL Time Warner Book Group, [2002]

Physical Description:
324 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This affecting first novel is about people trying to rebuild their lives as the world caves in on them. Joan and her 13-year-old son, John, travel to London one day in the early 1970s and find their lives irrevocably changed by the IRA bomb that explodes before them. John, a force of nature despite his youth, can no longer hear. Joan, deserted by her husband even before life got hard, is no better off--the preternatural beauty is left with severe facial scars. Unable to deal with her son's pain and her own, Joan spends the next two decades writing artful prose and emptying bottles of whiskey. This is a novel about those seemingly unanswerable questions: How much of our lot in life can we attribute to the decisions we make, and how much of it is fate? How much heartbreak can one person, one family, sustain? Hardy's damaged main characters call to mind the short stories of Lorrie Moore and the novels of Anna Quindlen. A gifted stylist, her sentences are often near perfect. --Kevin Canfield

Publisher's Weekly Review

A tragic accident on a boy's 13th birthday forever changes the lives of a mother and son in this haunting debut novel. Joan is a single mother, a beautiful woman and a brilliant academic who never lacks for male attention. Her son, John, knows he is adored; if his father's disappearing act during his mother's pregnancy shadows their past, the two still enjoy a peaceful life in the West Country of England. The accident-which leaves John deaf and his mother facially disfigured-at once strains and strengthens their bond. Employing alternating narratives, Hardy picks up the story 27 years later. John is a successful carpenter in Bristol, married to Sonja, who is a synaesthete-someone whose senses have merged so that she tastes colors and feels sound. Their 20-year relationship is shaken when John decides to undergo risky surgery to obtain cochlear implants; Sonja, meanwhile, may be having an affair. John's mother has become a virtual recluse and alcoholic, attending to her best friend Ellen, who is dying of cancer. From these somber elements Hardy weaves an affecting, emotionally complex story, as damaged mother and son explore the vicissitudes of the past. The well-developed cast of characters struggle through heartbreak and recovery, and learn that there is something to be gained by coping with fear and loss. The author's captivating prose, lushly descriptive but never overly sentimental, heightens the multilayered effect that lingers well after the final page has been turned. Agent, Maggie Phillips. (Oct.) Forecast: If the American reviews are as effusive as the British reviews, Hardy could attract a solid if modest U.S. readership. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A wrong turn across the Battersea Bridge outside of London leads a mother and her son into the path of an IRA bomb that shatters their previously untroubled lives. Before the tragedy, Joan was a beautiful, brilliant academic and a devoted single mother who enjoyed frequent short-term liaisons and a fair share of alcohol. John, her affable 13-year-old son, had a passion for water sports. But the explosion severely disfigures Joan and leaves John without hearing or the ability to immerse himself in water. Only the intervention of a compassionate doctor and the friendship of a fellow patient allow them to find their way back to the world. John eventually marries, becomes a carpenter, and runs a successful deck construction business, while Joan, unable to face her students, abandons academia for traveling and drinking funded from canny investments. The story alternates between mother and son and moves from 1972, immediately following the explosion, to a period 30 years later as each character faces significant change and a chance to reflect on the past. Although the IRA recently issued a public apology for the toll that three decades of violence has taken on innocent civilians, this deeply affecting novel demonstrates with poignancy how little and how late this must count for its victims. Essential for readers of quality fiction.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.