The Times have described Lucky Jim as “a flawless comic novel” and Kingsley Amis has certainly written a splendidly comic novel describing the attempts of England’s post-war generation to break free from the country’s traditional class structure. This is the story, or rather a myriad of unfortunate incidents that detail the life of Jim Dixon who has accidentally fallen into a job in one of Britain’s hapless universities; a moderately successful future with the department of history beacons to entangle Jim, as long as he can make it through, Welch’s singing weekend, deliver a lecture on ‘Merrie England’ and resist the hopelessly desirable Christine, the girlfriend of Welch’s dreadful son Bertrand, unscathed. Kingsley Amis’s scabrous debut novel leads the reader through a gallery of English bores, cranks, frauds, and neurotics with whom Dixon must contend in one way or another in order to hold on to his comfortable academic perch and win the girl of his fancy.
Thus, Lucky Jim becomes more than just a merciless satire of cosseted college life and stuffy post-war manners, Lucky Jim is an attack on the forces of boredom, whatever form they may take, and a work of art that at once distils and extends an entire tradition of English comic writing from Dickens to Waugh. However, it is a difficult novel to ensnare the imagination and encapsulate the reader into its nuances; after a couple of re-readings of the first few chapters I was eventually initiated into the intimacies and follies of the wretched rabble and found myself rooting for the novels underdog.
Lucky Jim is an uncomfortable novel, that has you ducking and diving, flinching and recoiling at Jim’s biggest misfortunes and most intimate uneasiness; it is a remarkable novel for its relentlessly violent skewering of artifice and pretension, academia and ‘brain-fade’. But really, Lucky Jim is a love story of tragic proportions where manipulative women, rude waiters and stuffy academics do their best to ensnare the novel’s lovable hero, but all it takes is a mysterious uncle and a cheating ex to set the wheel of fortune into balance. This is a great creation of post-war uncertainty and remains as scathing, withering and eloquently misanthropic as when is first scandalised readers in 1954.