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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2008
A comic novel all about birth control - or indeed the lack of it and its effects. The main character, Adam Appleby doesn't live in the garden of Eden; he's trying to get to grips with his thesis but only manages to worry about his ever expanding family.
The British Museum is where he goes to study, and each chapter is neatly prefaced with a literary quotation about it. The edition I have has an added afterword by the author, and this is where I discovered how badly read I am on modern classics, as Lodge has included ten different styles of literary pastiche including Lawrence, Joyce, Greene, Woolf and Hemingway et al. Looking back, I think I can locate some of them, but I will have to re-read some time in the future, (only being familiar with Greene, and having recently read my first Hemingway).
Great fun though even if you don't get all the jokes.
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on 8 May 2017
I've read it twice and still love it. It is full of understanding of human nature, exquisite humour and high quality artistic devices
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on 1 March 2013
book looked like new, no marks or evidence that it had been read at all? Arrived well packaged and quickly.
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on 28 October 2002
Perhaps the most useful description of this novel by the magnificent Mr. Lodge is to explain the effect that it had on me: I ordered everything else he has written.
This is a funny, unapologetically intelligent novel that wrestles with a real issue as it unfolds in deeply funny passages. As you'd expect from a man of Lodge's critical stature, there is an interest too in how books are written and literary style (the protagonist is writing his thesis in the Museum), but this is not a dry intellectual exercise, but a wry, clever and engrossing read.
Since reading this, I have read five other novels by him, culminating in his latest "Thinks..." and I promise that no matter where you start with his work, you'll be glad you got the habit: but please give this one a go.
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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.
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I mulled over whether this gets four or five stars. It got five because, while it isn't a masterpiece, it's a perfect little example of its form. In line with other books I read and love, it probably gets a four, but in terms of books I read that are supposedly "funny", satirical portraits of an aspect of life in pretty (particularly if they are of an "academic" bent), whatever, this pretty much eclipses all others I've read. It's a slim, sprightly volume and slides down very quickly and easily, and it's very very funny. Refreshingly so. It's witty, intelligent, draped in subtle allusions to literary history, and its humour doesn't seem strained or silly.

I liked this a great deal. As comic novels go, this is a very fine example.
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on 4 December 2013
When I bought this novel, I did not realise that it was a re-issue of an old David Lodge text. I am sure you will find this book riveting if you want to engage with the debate about birth control which is still unresolved within the Roman Catholic Church, as this is the overriding theme. For my part, I am afraid I lost patience with the protagonist and his long.-suffering wife around page 20.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 September 2015
If you’ve ever struggled with decisions about using birth control (I haven’t) or struggled to write a thesis (I have) then you’ll find much fellow feeling with protagonist Adam Appleby in this book. I’m not well read enough to notice that each chapter was a parody of the style of another author (the afterword informed me), but no matter, it was still an enjoyable read. Although you might think it outdated, published in 1965 when the contraceptive pill was new, it isn’t really and when I wrote this review today (1st September 2015) Pope Francis is in the news for making a statement about abortion.
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This novel takes one day in the life of a Catholic post-graduate student, desperately trying to complete his research whilst maintaining his ever-increasing family. The one-day account nods at James Joyce and many chapters reflect the style of other well-known authors. Any reader can miss the literary references but the book is hilarious even without that element. Adam, married to Barbara in a loving relationship, has already produced Clare, Dominic and Edward and fears he might complete the alphabet with progeny! All the problems of birth control are explored with sympathy and humour and the - now - nostalgic account of Adam's efforts in and out of the old British Museum Reading Room made me laugh aloud at times. His encounters with the priest Finbar are entertaining and the scene where he returns to his desk to find it surrounded by tourists (why?) is one of many memorable events: the false fire alarm, the meeting with the butcher who is in love with Elizabeth Taylor (he has seen Cleopatra thirty-four times) and the phone calls which get confused with each other with disastrous results. Yet the underlying theme is serious and is explored in other novels by David Lodge: how does a devout young couple cope with the prohibitions of "artificial" birth control when the "natural" method fails them?
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on 4 May 2011
One of Lodges early novels-very readable as are all his books. It's about a young catholic couple already with 3 young children and their fear of having any more offspring. They try to be good catholics and are practising the "safe method" of birth control but so far have not managed to perfect it! A funny and extremely human story with some great moments. More discerning readers will recognise passages written in the styles of some famous authors. Another gem from David Lodge-long may he continue to write.
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