by David Lodge ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1992
Lodge combines his past fictional interests in Catholicism (The British Museum is Falling Down, etc.) and social satire (Nice Work, etc.) to produce this always engaging and clever tale of innocents abroad. The unlikely naif is Bernard Walsh, a rather dour, middle-aged, part-time instructor in theology from a minor college in Lodge's fictional town of Rummidge. What we don't know at first is that he's also a former priest, the son of Irish-born immigrants to South London who have never become reconciled with their son's descent into apostasy--his now ""wasted life."" When the family's first black sheep summons Bernard to her deathbed in Hawaii, he agrees to attempt a reunion between her and her brother--Bernard's cantankerous father--whom she hasn't spoken to in 40 years. Getting old Jack Walsh to travel halfway around the world is just the start of Bernard's problems. Once they arrive in ""paradise,"" events conspire to postpone the meeting in which brother and sister will confront some long-suppressed family secrets. Bernard's personal journey--his loss of virginity, and his leap forward in self-confidence--is all the more enjoyable because Lodge sets it against a larger profile of the fellow Brits who come to Hawaii on Bernard's charter. There's Russ Harvey, a yuppie honeymooner, and his Ice Maiden wife, whose vacation is spoiled from the start by a revelation at the wedding reception; there are a couple of elderly second honeymooners who record everything on video; there are the two spinster teachers in search of ""Someone Nice."" And, of course, no Lodge novel would be complete without a pompous academic--in this case, an anthropology prof who specializes in tourism, which he is ""reconstructing"" on a grant from the British Association of Travel Agents. American litigiousness and health policy come in for some well-deserved mockery along the merry way. Narrative tricks aside, Lodge's Catholicism and his gimlet eye make him the true heir of Evelyn Waugh.
Pub Date: April 1, 1992
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992
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