Nice Work – David Lodge – 4 stars
Turns out this book is a modern re-writing of the classic Victorian industrial novel. I might have appreciated this more had I actually ever read an industrial novel.
While the intentions of the novelist were probably wasted on me, I did really enjoy this book. The cover is, to put it nicely, mind-numbingly dull, so it took a few chapters to convince me that I could actually like the story. Once I’d got over my prejudice, I found that although very eruditely and cleanly written, the characters had a real spark of life to them, and the book was both perceptive and really quite sensitive.
Also, it’s not as funny as the cover reviews might suggest. It’s light-hearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously but I’d say there are too few chuckle-worthy scenes to call the whole book ‘funny’.
What I found particularly interesting was that although it is a modern re-telling, it is set around thirty years ago. Obviously this is still a huge length of time away from its Victorian predecessors, but it is long enough ago that the setting is interesting. I wasn’t even born at the time of this novel, so it felt distanced enough to give it that retro edge (for me – this is probably just showing my age, or lack thereof).
The pacing in this book is fantastic, and the structure is remarkable for its cleverness and effectiveness, but I think it was the carefully drawn-up characters that really sold it for me. They are so intricate and relateable even in their quirks, and this is highlighted by the third person present narrative.
I had mixed feelings about the ending, but I’m leaning towards the conclusion that it was all for the best.
To conclude, forget about the ugly and boring exterior and just enjoy what I think is a really, really good novel.
If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts – how do you feel about that ending?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!