Friday, 10 December 2010

The British Museum is Falling Down by David Lodge. Review by Mª José Gasch

This is Lodge’s third novel and first comedy, written in 1965 while he was a young lecturer on a fellowship in the U.S.
This book is a sly satire about the out-of-date traditions of Catholicism in 1960s England.
This clever and sarcastic novel reports the misadventures of the brainy and absentminded doctoral candidate Adam Appleby and spans a single day of Adam’s attempts to carry on his thesis research in the Reading Room of the British Museum, while his wife, Barbara, is home with their young children.
The subject concerns the trials and tribulations of the young Catholic couple who live in constant anxiety state because they are prevented from planning their family due to their religious beliefs. With three young children in four years of marriage, and now the threat of a fourth pregnancy, both of them are psychologically and economically dejected and sexually frustrated from trying to follow the Church’s teaching regarding birth control.
The events in Adam’s day are funnily detailed: problems with his motor scooter, a fire scare, a sherry party and a visit to the aging niece of a Catholic novelist. All these things and his worry about his wife being pregnant make him get nothing done on his thesis.
Although you can enjoy many amusing scenes and dialogues, you can’t help being sorry for the young couple torturing themselves with the absurd and ineffective “contraceptive” methods like the “Safe Period” and the “Rhythm”.
I also enjoyed Lodge’s evocation of a world which has died - an academic life spent in the British Museum Reading Room - I would have liked to get to know that way of life.
The book is short, easy to read, very funny and cleverly written. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s a very good book worth reading.

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