I have finally finished my first classics club book, Take A Girl Like You by Kingsley Amis. Hurray!
Unfortunately, my initial feeling of disappointment didn’t ever quite wear off. I just didn’t really find it very funny. At least, I could see funny bits but I never actually laughed out loud. Perhaps I expected too much. I laughed and laughed at Lucky Jim, but Martin Jarvis was reading that so maybe he added a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole thing.
Apart from that, I didn’t dislike the book as such. I quite enjoyed the depiction of life in the fifties and really enjoyed the relationship between Patrick and Jenny. Jenny, I should have mentioned earlier, is the girl in the title and she has moved down from the North to try and get over a failed relationship. The problem was that she wishes to retain her virginity before marriage, and that continues to be a problem in her relationship with Patrick, a man she meets almost immediately after arriving in her new town. Their relationship, once it got going, was very well described and realistic and I enjoyed that.
What I didn’t enjoy was Patrick, and I supposed what I perceived as authorial intention regarding him. I know that I probably shouldn’t guess at authorial intention, but I did feel that judgments were made on other characters, particularly Dick Thompson and a minor character named Joan who Patrick meets in London, so I objected to a lack of moral judgment on Patrick. He predictably, struggles with not having sex and doesn’t manage to remain faithful. Eventually he gives Jenny an ultimatum and she agrees. That angered me. He may have given the ultimatum in a reasonable way, but I still felt it showed a distinct lack of character to not be patient, or to discuss alternative means of satisfaction. In addition, he buys a present for after the deed (prostitute much?) and spikes his tonic bottle with gin after reflecting how difficult it is to get her to drink. Charming.
Anyway. She fails to turn up, suffering a very understandable attack of nerves and at a party that evening Patrick ends the relationship. Jenny becomes very upset, very drunk and someone takes her to bed upstairs, whereupon Patrick sneaks in and has sex with her.
Nowadays, that is rape and rightfully so. I appreciate that sexual morality and etiquette, for want of a better word, is different today but that should still be very frowned upon. A friend of Patrick’s does remonstrate, but not with any real heat, and Jenny forgives him before the end of the book. I was very unhappy. It turned what seemed to be a light tale about a beautiful girl dodging overly amorous men to a sexually predatory story. Upsetting.
I think my next one will be Vanity Fair. Hopefully I won’t find those sexual politics too disturbing. And if I do, there’s always Pilgrim’s Progress to look forward to.