Lecturer Jim Dixon’s future in the History Department looks set to blossom, so long as he can forestall the amorous advances of Margaret, while trying to stay on the right side of Professor Welch and his annoying family. But getting lumbered with delivering a lecture on Merrie England isn’t Jim’s only problem…
This edition of the classic comedy caper has an introduction by David Lodge, which I’m sorry to admit I couldn’t be bothered to read. The book itself is enjoyable enough, though the idea of it being ‘hilariously funny’ as some folk would have it, just isn’t true. Amis writes in a way that must have been refreshing and quite delightful at the time (1954), and though his hero is likeable, the dialogue is peppered with clunky phrases that went out of fashion (if they were ever in), many years ago.
The character of Jim is said to be inspired by the poet Philip Larkin, though in my opinion, Larkin had a gift for humour that is light years away from Amis’s creation. While the author’s comments on culture and, in particular, the pretentious nature of people like the Welch family, is mildly amusing, I’d have to say that the novel doesn’t hold up too well against contemporaries like Graham Greene.
All in all, a bit disappointing.
A balanced review, Colin.
Often, when reading so-called ‘classic’ books, I wonder why everyone raved about them at the time. I suppose I just expect books to be well written, but as Dean Koontz says, ‘Not all published writers are good writers.’
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