Think bubbles

When I was twenty-something I read a lot of David Lodge. I guess it may have been partly because many of his novels are set around university campuses, and university campuses took up a lot of my life at the time. I also liked his Catholic angst - something he has in common with another favourite writer of mine, Graham Greene, I enjoyed his characters spiritual struggles - another thing that I also related to. But then, for an unknown reason I stopped reading David Lodge, and it's been some years since I last read any of his works.

Which on reflection is a shame as he's both a good author and a very funny one. He proves this admirably in his 2000 novel Thinks... Helen Reed is a fiction writer in mourning for her recently deceased husband, Martin, who takes up a short term post teaching creative writing at the fictional University of Gloucester. While there she meets Ralph Messenger, serial philanderer and Head of Cognitive Science. Both Helen and Ralph are, in their own ways, investigating what it means to be conscious, and its wider implications of what it means to be human. This is played out in their own lives, as their increasingly complicated relationship reveals the complexities that lie in the mind of all humans.

As you would expect with David Lodge this novel is brilliantly funny with many a laugh out loud moment. It's also surprisingly thought provoking, and at times genuinely touching. I do think that David Lodge writes about women really well. I found myself especially drawn to the central character of Helen, and her struggles with life, and changes in her attitudes towards life, religion and social mores. His men are perhaps not quite so good. They may lack the misogyny of many of Kingsley Amis' heroes, but you wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with any of them, with the exception of the charming but wicked Ralph. Witty, funny, sexy and sad, David Lodge is even better than I remembered him.


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