Saturday, 18 September 2010

The British Museum is Falling Down

Author: David Lodge
Publisher: Penguin Decades
Date: 1st April 2010
RRP: £8.99

  This story, originally written and set in the 1960s, follows a day in the life of Adam Appleby, a practising Catholic studing for his Literature PhD.  He is happily married to his wife of just over three years and because of the Catholic churches stance on contraception already has three children.  He wakes anxious that his wife might be expecting their fourth child, all the signs seem to be pointing that way despite their obsessive use of thermometers and charts to avoid such an event (and to kill the remaining romance of their marriage).  He leaves desperately unhappy on his clapped-out scooter to the Museum Reading Room to work on his thesis.  The day doesn't go well, in fact it goes terribly with a lack of motivation, fire alarms, a man-hunt, an explosion, failed job offers and a test on his marriage. 

  The book really delves into the thoughts and feelings of Adam throughout this day and as the book progresses you begin to feel a great affinity towards him and pity his lack of good fortune.  There are plenty of in-jokes which make you feel part of his exclusive club and some great laugh-out-loud moments.  David Lodge is clearly a very intelligent writer, references to literature are woven throughout the story and quotes about the British Museum add humour to the start of every chapter.  Interestingly the role of narrator isn't consistent throughout and suddenly you are cast into the shoes of Adam and experiencing his day as him rather as an uninvolved witness. 

  What was great about this book was how great it felt to laugh at this unfortunate character despite my conscious telling me he deserved more of my pity.  The story was like a trampoline, with Adam experiencing joyful highs, immediately followed by crashing lows which just added to the pathetic-ness of him.  My favourite section of the book was the epilogue, where we are suddenly transported into the mind of his wife in the middle of the night.  It feels great to finally get to explore her character because during the rest of the book we are only concerned with whether or not she is pregnant again.  It ends with a three-page sentence, a final joke since Adam's thesis was on the use of long sentences in literature.  This is clever humour, to the extent that at times I felt I shouldn't be enjoying this much because by know means am I a literary boff, but nonetheless the story is so truly encapsulating it is definitely worth a go.
Rating 8/10