Therapeutic

I think that David Lodge must be my literary equivalent of Mahler. Let me explain - through much of my teens and early twenties I listened to Mahler virtually non-stop. I adored Mahler. Then, for no particular reason, I just stopped listening. Occasionally now I'll come across a recording, and every time it will strike me anew how good he is, and how much I enjoy his work, and I remind myself every time that I should listen to more Mahler, but then I forget, until I hear him again, and so the circle goes round. And David Lodge is rather the same. I remember very clearly reading him for the first time in my early twenties - How far can you go? was my first Lodge. I loved his mixture of comedy and seriousness, with a touch of Catholic angst (yes, I was also very into Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh at the time too). I read Lodge pretty voraciously, and then like Mahler, I stopped. It's been a few years since I read any Lodge.

With everything that's been going on in my life recently though, it seemed a good time to re-visit him. And what better novel to read in the circumstances than Therapy? 

It's the 1990's, the UK's in a bit of a crisis and in need of therapy. Lawrence Passmore, writer of a successful TV sitcom, is in therapy - psychotherapy, aromatherapy, physiotherapy - you name it, he's in it. His platonic mistress, Amy, is also in therapy - the Freudian variety. In fact she's so into it that she has it every day (note to self - casting directors must be VERY well paid). In fact the only person who doesn't seem to be in some kind of therapy is Passmore's long-suffering wife, Sally, which is probably why it comes as a bit of a shock to Lawrence that she wants out of their marriage. As Lawrence strives to come to terms with the new trajectory that his life has just taken, he tries to find a way of putting his life right again; and along the way reconnects with some very old friends, and discovers an even older road.

Lodge's plot lines often appear to be rather sad (true literary Mahlers), but in fact he's one of the funniest writers on the planet. He's one of the few writers that without fail makes me laugh out loud. He's gloriously funny. And partly because his novels have a seriousness at their heart, the comedy catches you by surprise every time. I defy anyone not to laugh out loud at Passmore's encounter with the "other" man, or the perils of playing tennis (not to mention sex) in knee supports. It manages to be both wonderfully silly, and, just occasionally, heartbreaking. Lodge moves with ease between comedic moments and true emotion. A lovely novel, and a comic masterpiece.


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