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How Far Can You Go? [Paperback]

David Lodge
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 April 2011
Polly, Dennis, Angela, Adrian and the rest are bound to lose their spiritual innocence as well as their virginities on the journey between university in the 1950s and the marriages, families, careers and deaths that follow. On the one hand there's Sex and then the Pill, on the other there is the traditional Catholic Church. In this razor-sharp novel David Lodge exposes the pressures that assailed Catholics everywhere within a more permissive society, and voices their eternal question: how far can you go?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099554143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099554141
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Lodge's novels include Deaf Sentence, Changing Places, Small World, Nice Work, Therapy, Thinks... and Author, Author. He has also written stage plays and screenplays, and several books of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction, Consciousness and the Novel and, most recently, The Year of Henry James. Formerly Professor of English at Birmingham University, David now writes full-time. He continues to live in Birmingham.

Product Description


"Hilarious...a magnificent book" (Graham Greene)

"Huge, bitterly funny and superbly presented montage of the false nostrums that assailed Christianity like worms" (Sunday Times)

"Funny, sad, knowledgeable" (Irish Times)

"Brilliant and intricate black comedy" (Time Out)

Book Description

A novel of satiric insight and comic despair dealing with the lives and loves of ten young Catholics in the 1960s and 70s.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
David Lodge explores the themes of sex and religion and the power of the author in this (in my opinion) his best novel. He follows a group of a dozen or so characters most of whom are at the outset of the novel practising Catholics at the University in London in the 1950's and follows them through to middle age.
If that sounds a bit worthy then be reassured. This is comic novel - of sorts. It's not as plainly comedic as the Changing Places trilogy or Paradise News but the benefit of that is when the novel in places turns to serious events it can do so with the gravitas required.
A variety of charcters struggle with the whole range of life problems. This is not a typical novel and the oucomes are not predicatable. For instance;
"Tessa, in short was clasically ripe for having an affair, and in another milieu, or novel might well have had one. Instead, she bought lots of clothers and changed more times a day than was stricly necessary, collected cookbooks and experimeted with complicated recipes, read novels from library about mature, sensitive women having affairs, and enrolled in the Open University"
Sex is discussed and depicted in this book at great length but it is written about with more intelligence and insight than other less skilled writers. Ultimately though it is the characters who draw you in. I challenge you not to sympathise with Angela whose goodness overides her need to look for her own happiness. You will share the desperation of Miles who must reconcile his deep faith with his homosexuality. You will be drawn into the terrible difficulties of Michael who is both a devout Catholic but also incredibly turned on by the beckoning of the permissive society.
The closing section of the novel is moving in the extreme, as the characters demonstrate how far they have moved since there youth. All have faced tests to their faith and all have found there are no easy answers, Lodge the author included. I highly reccomed this novel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Lodge's Best Novel 20 Aug 2003
By oldhasbeen VINE VOICE
.. and that's saying quite a lot. Despite the briliant comedy of "Changing Places", "Therapy" and "Nice Work", amongst others and the compelling stark Greenian realism of "Ginger, You're Barmy", for me this is the best of the lot. You get plenty of laughs, but also briliant characterisation, a kaleidoscopic view of the changing world of the English Catholic and a great insight into the dilemmas and thought processes of the Catholic mind. A book written with great style, feeling & compassion, which repays multiple reads.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Razor-sharp, engrossing novel 23 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This is a smart, serio-comic novel about a group of Catholic students in London beginning in the early 50s, and the baleful influence of their religion upon their development. The themes are Catholicism, sex (lots), relationships, the 60s, and writing (the novelist adds a layer by occasionally appearing and talking about his craft). Razor-sharp and engrossing. I really enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gently provocative 23 Jun 2013
By Kate
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I did not find this an anti-Catholic novel. It is true that all the characters whose journey in Catholicism we follow, question, challenge and modify their beliefs and practices. It is a provocative work, even now after several decades, when the central concerns of the book may seem outmoded, and it directs its criticism in various directions. There is robust criticism of the traditional Catholic upbringing prior to the 1960s; there is more sensitive criticism of the Church hierarchy (Lodge expresses his understanding, as well as his disappointment, of the reasons underpinning the publication of encyclical Humanae Vitae); the liberal wing too (to which this book is most sympathetic) is not immune from criticism as its more adventurous excesses are exposed, to slight ridicule. However, almost all the characters continue to affirm the central importance of faith in their lives and most of them find a place for the expression of their faith within the Catholic church.

As a practising Catholic, I therefore found it a very positive novel, one which invited readers to re-evaulate the place of faith in the modern world. Although the birth control question, which is a central in this novel, is now no longer a matter of widespread concern to Catholics in the UK, there are still pressing questions about the relationship between Church and secular society, so the serious questions of the book still have relevance.

The humour may be more elusive in this novel than in others by David Lodge, but there is nevertheless a levity, which I found very welcome, particularly to counter the grimness of some of the events and the non-fictional explanations of Church history which break up the narrative.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating study of the three decades. 27 Sep 1999
By A Customer
i really enjoyed this book. a group of friends go from austere catholicism into the permissive seventies, with a glance behind them. The reader takes in all the changes since the fifties. You can't put it down. David Lodge at his best.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A novel which explores the changes in Catholicism between the 50s and 70s, and the impact of this religion on a group of Catholics on their respective journeys from their teen years to middle age, definitely has the potential to be too heavy or sluggish. However, in the case of 'How Far Can You Go?', Lodge takes this topic and crafts a satisfyingly entertaining and thought-provoking story out of it. There is a well balanced blend of humour and seriousness and despite the large number of characters the narrative follows, they are all distinctive enough to avoid causing confusion. Sex is a major theme, and this is fitting considering how significantly attitudes towards sex changed in the depicted era. Lodge also, at times, uses the interesting technique of drawing attention to himself as the author and the story as fiction, challenging the reader to consider the meditations of the novel with its construction in mind. The book is well written enough that these metafictional interjections did nothing to withdraw me from the narrative. I found it to be a consistently engaging, funny and affective read.
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