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The Scheme for Full Employment [Paperback]

Magnus Mills
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Mar 2004

A wonderfully original fable which will appeal to readers of all ages, from ‘a British writer to be treasured’ (Independent on Sunday)

Of course, if this had been any other country The Scheme would still be going today. In any other country it would have been regarded as a national treasure. Planned to the finest detail by people of vision, The Scheme was watertight, and could not possibly go wrong. Except in this country.'

Life on The Scheme is like being in a great big feather bed. You've got your full uniform provided, winter and summer, subsidized cups of tea and sandwiches, the opportunity for a quiet doze in a lay-by while you wait to clock off, and a generous weekly wage. And all you've got to do is turn up for work every day! But it could all so easily come to an end. Already, workers are beginning to divide into opposing camps, and a new superintendent has arrived, intent on sending The Scheme the way of 'all those other failed social experiments, like public transport, school dinners and municipal orchestras'. Might the chill winds of change spell an end to our glorious summer?

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (15 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007151322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007151325
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A British writer to be treasured' Independent on Sunday

'Mills's odd but wonderful books combine the language of a children's story and the strange dry humour of Harold Pinter… This is a writer [whose] apparent simplicity sends your imagination flying in a way that is magical and unique.' Daily Express

'A unique talent… Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction.' Literary Review

'Magnus Mills is a genius…an extraordinary individual with a completely unique view of the world, who makes sense of it in totally unexpected and inexplicable ways. It's rare that you finish a book feeling so richly satisfied.' Big Issue

Book Description

'A unique talent ... Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction' Literary Review --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Mozfish
...parting with the pennies (or exercising your local library card) for this one.
It is an excellent examination of the human condition of never being satisfied with what you have and in trying to improve and abuse a rather idyllic situation, realising it can all come to an unforeseen end (or foreseen for the reader).
Having now read a few more of Mills' books, I seek comfort in identifying with his dry look at behaviour in society through his prose. His novels are written in the first person and the reader is never given the name or gender of the character whose point of view his novels are written from, which immediately transports you into that situation.
I definitely recommend this, and other novels by the same author, to those who enjoy people-watching and human idiosyncrasies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnus Mills by numbers 3 Mar 2003
Readers happily familiar with Magnus Mills’ output to date will find The Scheme for Full Employment a joy for it’s more of the same – more sparse landscapes, more spare dialogue and more characters rounded only just enough to permit all manner of allegorical possibilities. Fans of Magnus Mills’ output, however, may be slightly disappointed for exactly the same reasons – it’s very similar to what we’ve grown to love, but we’re used to it now, can maybe even predict some of the twists, and may find that The Scheme for Full Employment doesn’t add anything particularly new.
The narrator—unnamed, as ever—is one cog in the machine that makes up the eponymous Scheme, driving a Univan from one depot to another delivering an unspecified product for an unspecified purpose and an unspecified wage. The scene is beautifully Mills-ian, unquestioning men at work in the company of other unquestioning men, never dwelling long enough with each other for characters to develop above a single identifiable trait; George delivers cakes as a sideline, Jonathan is in his first week, Arthur is the grumpy guardian of keys. The narrator—again typically—is also slightly marginalized: he feels uncomfortable in the communal canteen and in the early stages of the book is taken off of his regular run to make solitary timing journeys to Eden Lacey depot, prior to possible expansion of the scheme. Thus, when there is something of an uprising in his home depot (a clash of ethics between early swervers and flat-dayers) he misses it and, as ever, ‘plot’ is something that happens elsewhere.
This technique may be unique to Mills but its effects have been tried and tested in all his novels to date.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another example of Mills' grandeur 22 May 2004
Magnus Mills must surely be one of the finest contemporary British novelists. His style is without parallel - dead-pan, some people call it, anti-hero I call it, it doesn't matter: whichever way you try to label it, it doesn't fit into the tusual novel/fable models.
"The Scheme for Full Employment" is a grand program that, well, guarantees full employment. Eight hours' worth of work for eight hours' pay. Grand days await those who join the scheme, what with an easy job that pays extremely well and has lots of benefits and perks attached to it.
The Scheme relies on a network of depots/distribution centres, with all that goes with it: a mechanical, almost flawless organisation, workers for every kind of task (from key keepers to gate guards), and, obviously, van - pardon, UniVan - drivers wheeling some kind of materials to and fro, in an never ending merry-go-round of transportation.
As the book progresses we find out that nothing happens to the merchandise being carried... it simply gets carried around from depot to depot on and off UniVans. And, most strangely and comically, that the goods are, well, UniVan parts. Now how stranger can the book get?
I won't go into more detail about the plot, but I can't resists making a couple of remarks about the book and the style. Firslty, Mills uses many symbols but is sufficiently smart and unpretentious so he doesn't leave it up to the reader to find out what those symbols are; everything is cleverly explained leaving no room for doubt. Then, there are hardly any references to the outside world; whilst the reader knows for a fact that such people do exist, the fact is that the narrator only narrates about The Scheme.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
this book will not be very interesting to anyone who has not worked in the UK. to those who have it will be a enjoyable fantasy, with a LOT OF MEANING. the book seems to be based in the 1960s; but it still has a lot of comtemporary points. the basic plot is covered in previous reviews, but the idea of a large number of people doing non productive work, courtesy of the tax payer, oblivious to the fact that their jobs are of no benefit, has a lot of relevance to the 'job creation' seen in the last few years.
i defy anyone who has worked for the NHS to read it without smiling
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Book 23 Oct 2011
By Aged 59
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I worked as a postman many years ago and this book reminds me of those days even if it's about widget distribution (which, funnily enough, is how I earn a living now).
Beautifully written, it chronicles the ins and outs of the working class at work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another quirky one from Mr Mills
If you know the slow but compulsive narrative of his books, you'll enjoy this one, although not as much as the Restraint of Beasts. Read more
Published 3 months ago by A Mum on the Run
2.0 out of 5 stars A day in the life of a white van man...
I bought this book to read on holiday after reading 'A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In' which I found a quirky light read, however, I found this book quite dull and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Agghhh
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read
I found this book funny, sarcastic and with a rapidly moving story which was full of human characteristics. Read more
Published 10 months ago by jackie hamilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, brilliant, inventive, imaginative writing
Already read a couple of books by Magnus Mills and love his slightly different take on the situation, his wonderful use of language and the slightly abstract scenarios he conjures... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. K. Dowding
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended
I found this book boring, despressive, no escapism at all and unusually for me I haven't finished reading it nor will I.
Published on 18 Jun 2012 by West Coast
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly slight
A gossamer treat. Every word lovingly chosen, not a syllable wasted. It's a prose poem, rather than a short story. Read more
Published on 15 July 2011 by tiredoldtimer
5.0 out of 5 stars Ouch! Barely hidden truths within these wonderful words.
This is my first exposure to a Magnus Mills book and I devoured it in 3 short, glorious readings. As I write this review, besides me is today's copy of the Western Morning News... Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2010 by Paul Handover
4.0 out of 5 stars Ever so slightly odd
An odd story, in which nothing seems to happen, but with an air of menace and absurdity and a nice line in deadpan humour.
Published on 26 Aug 2010 by Tom White
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Curious parable about the "British Disease" - postmen take...
That Mills was a bus driver informs the reader of the possibly autobiographical nature of this book. Read more
Published on 8 Nov 2009 by M. J. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars I make a cup of tea
I make a cup of tea. I pick up the book. I read it. Well, some of it. There were a lot of pages. I read every word of each page, then put the book down for a bit. Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2009 by P. Bilzon
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