A blocked writer, mired in cynicism, endures the last days of his wretched rooming house in a dreary part of London, waiting with his equally miserable fellow tenants and their dreary landlady for the arrival of the wrecking crews, the shock troops of a huge redevelopment project. Mr. O., a would-be writer and the narrator of this not-funny-enough slice of lowlife, years ago left his appalling wife, an unspeakably suburban woman whose sole interest was the breeding of small dogs, and has since been living under the leaking roof of the twice-widowed Mrs. Devine. Mrs. Devine's house is rented to a motley crew of Pakistanis, West Indians, Arabs, and, very occasionally, to a ""gentleman"" such as the narrator. Mrs. Devine is low class and talks too much, and Mr. O. dreams constantly of vivisecting her with the help of his fellow tenants. These cheery dreams are salted throughout the book, interspersed with scenes from the narrator's dreadful marriage to the dog breeder, scenes of the disintegration of the neighborhood, and the lives of the tenants as the redevelopment project takes block after block of the surrounding terraces, advancing inexorably toward Mrs. Devine's damp palace. These detailed portraits of a mistaken marriage and of a London succumbing to urban Alzheimer's disease are skillfully drawn but only faintly amusing and without heart.
Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: Andre Deutsch--dist. by David & Charles