The last book we read in the book club was Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. From now on, I’ll post my thoughts on each book that we review so can keep track of the books we read and my thoughts on each of them.
We’d not read any Amis (Kingsley or Martin) and we constantly find that we overlook massive authors and there definitely was a sense we needed to ‘do’ Kingsley Amis. I came to the book with no baggage, with little knowledge of his work or his life. I find there’s little chance of pre-judging the author and the book if you come to it with no preconceptions.
Interestingly, Lucky Jim happened to be the first book I’ve read on my iPad. I won’t rant on about the device as I’m conscious that I’ve done plenty of that in other posts. Suffice it to say that reading this book on the iPad proved to be a very enjoyable experience with the benefits of a backlit screen and compact format outweighing the lack of paper.
On to the book itself. Set in a post war provincial University, the book charts the highs and lows of a hapless university tutor, Jim Dixon. It’s very much a book of its time and the period feel pervades and at times, can act as a barrier to the book. Some of my fellow book reviewers felt the book had dated badly and a such firmly remained a period piece. To an extent, I agreed with them, but I actually quite enjoyed the era in which it was set.
The narrative is very simple and I struggled to find any real depth in the book – it was all about characterisation for me. The travails of the central protagonist through his dreary life and his inability to get anything right forms the central plank of the story. The book describes a series of very funny and painfully accurate set pieces (most notably the cringeworthy musical house weekend at his boss’ house where he sets fire to his bed after getting legless) that deliver much enjoyment, admittedly at the expense of our main character.
There enough plenty of laugh out loud moments for me to score the book quite highly as I don’t remember the last time a book had me chuckling along quite this much. At times it erred on the side of ‘ooh excuse me vicar’ farce, with some ludicrously embarrassing moments are played out around Dixon but generally Amis kept things in check with his light and well written style.
On the back of this, Amis is probably not an author I’d rush back to and if this is his magnum opus then definitely not. All in all a good, light holiday read that was surprisingly entertaining.
Seven out of ten.