Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

"Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis is a novel described as a satire of academic life and of academics, and that's very much the axis on which the narrative revolves. Beyond that though, it is as much the story of a young man who tries to fit in and to make do with the only opportunities he feels are before him, both in his private life and in his working life and slowly, despite his efforts, finds himself suffocated by conformity and let's his (good humoured) nature take over. 

The story is set in the head of the main character, Jim, who describes everything he sees and hears with a joke. Initially, this is a bit tiresome for the reader as you might imagine. It took me a good one hundred pages to get used to this style and to fully see that beyond the jokes lay intelligent and deeply honest remarks about society's expectations, and about a rigid class system now beginning to break open within academia in 1950s.

Once I got used to the flow and figured out where all his jokes where heading to, I really enjoyed the story. One element did stick out throughout the novel though: every woman is portrayed as neurotic, irrational, or eccentric. The only redeeming quality in the woman Jim ends up falling for is her youthful beauty and self-righteousness (and she's loaded). Perhaps it was a comment on the author's part of how men were programmed to see women, or perhaps that is just how the author wanted them. All the same, as a woman I found it was an issue for me.

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