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Novel by Larkin is interesting, worth reading
on 22 November 2008
This is one of the two novels written by British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985). Originally written in 1946, it tells the story of Kemp, a working class boy from the north of England arriving to study in Oxford during World War II. Socially awkward, his roommate is an upper classmen who disdains Kemp but allows him to be around him as a hanger on, as a human pet he can mock along with his friends. Though Larkin has said this was not an autobiography, it shares with many of them written by authors the story of a youth with few friends, desiring women from afar but realizing they remain completely out of reach to them. Despite taking place during the War, the conflagration appears fleetingly in the book, when Kemp has to visit his fictional hometown of Huddlesford to see if his family has survived an aerial bombing of the city. The title refers to Jill, a cousin of one of the upper classmen. Kemp has a crush on Jill, but naturally finds himself barely able to talk to her. In general, the book starts fairly well, but it sorts of bogs down towards the middle. Since few things happen to Kemp, most of the story is told in introspective style, as the sensitive protagonist tells how he felt at a number of mundane things that happened to him - this is fine, but it can also end up being tiresome.