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Catholic teaching versus life's realities,
This review is from: The British Museum Is Falling Down (Paperback)
This novel is the story of one day in the life of Adam, a postgraduate student of English literature, desperate to complete his thesis and find a paying job. Adam is a Catholic and he and his wife Barbara have unsuccessfully struggled with the uncertainties of the Catholic method of birth control, resulting in three young children. He worries endlessly about the fact that his wife Barbara may again be pregnant and the financial disaster that will befall them if they have another child. Adam spends his usually uneventful days working in the British Museum reading room (now the British Library of course), but this day is different and a series of events greatly complicates his life. For example, he gets involved in a confusing `cross-wires' phone call that results in the fire brigade being called to the Reading Room and its evacuation; and he attends a drinks reception at his university department and manages to be offered a job, only to be told a few minutes later that it was a misunderstanding and that his friend is to get it.
Most complicated of all, Adam receives a letter from a woman who has unpublished manuscript from a minor writer who was originally going to be the subject of his thesis. Because publication of this might save his academic career, Adam visits the woman, leading to a series of `adventures' involving the women's sex-obsessed teenage daughter, and some sinister foreign butchers who live in the basement of her house. Needless to say the manuscript is rubbish, although he does manage to earn a commission by selling it.
The literary reader will recognise that the book has sections written in the styles of several famous writers, and there are echoes of earlier academic comic novels, notably Kinglsey Amis' `Lucky Jim', but it is not necessary to see these to enjoy the book. There are hilarious scenes involving the events above, and many others, such as the meeting with a priest, Father Finbar, just as Adam was going into a `sex supplies' shop, and we have the classic scene of someone trying to pretend he was not intending to buy contraceptives. The book treats the serious topic of young Catholics struggling to reconcile the teachings of their church with the realities of everyday life in a humorous way that is totally successful.