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That Uncertain Feeling (Penguin Modern Classics) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
To say that John Lewis doesn't know what he wants is an understatement - and on one level this novel is his journey to some kind of wisdom and self-insight. I suspect the book's themes might have had greater resonance in 1955, when the book was first published: disdain for pretension, self-effacing commentaries, the sense of being stifled by social structures, retreating into alcohol as a coping mechanism, manipulation, hypocrisy, etc.
Despite some weighty themes, in common with Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics), Kingsley Amis's first novel (and the only other one I have read), this book is very well written, with credible and recognisable characters, and has some amusing moments, including one laugh out loud chapter of high farce. Kingsley Amis appears to really enjoy making fun of his characters, most of whom are flawed and faintly ludicrous. A satisfying, sporadically funny, well written book that is very much of its time.
I found the narrator character hard to get a handle on. I suppose he's suffering from frustration and boredom, if not outright depression, but the only way to explain some of his actions is that he is far drunker than he makes himself out to be. The slapstick scenes in particular come out of nowhere (I'm in agreement with Edmund Wilson's New Yorker review about the infamously arbitrary chapter 10) and aren't funny enough to be worth it.
OK, spoilers ahead...
Those slapstick bits, along with the sudden fade-out ending followed by a "six months later" epilogue, make me think Amis wasn't taking it very seriously, which of course is a disaster if you're trying to write comedy. Or was the work simply too rushed? He had years to hone Lucky Jim, and no doubt the publishers then demanded a follow-up twelve months later. The inspiration seems lacking, in places you can sense the desperation of an author with a deadline, and the twist (unsuitable and obviously insincere man-eating married woman turns out genuinely to have fallen in love with our hero) pretty feeble.
If you have yet to read any Kingsley Amis, start with Lucky Jim or The Green Man or - best of all - with The Anti-Death League. But this one, slight as it is, is still entertaining enough to be worth a look.
However, this is a review of the Penguin kindle version and therefore loses most of its stars for the terrible formatting this book has received. There has been no effort to fully justify the text, and not only is the text ragged on the right hand side, but on some pages the text barely reaches the middle of the page. Overall, my experience with kindle has been positive but the photocopy and sell without any quality control that many publishers seem to follow in putting out their back catalogue in e-book form is a real problem.