Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Paradise Postponed

When it comes to humorous literature, I see a continuum from books that are almost purely funny, with only a fragile plot for framework, to serious literature written by a witty author able to leaven a heavy story with a little comedy. I personally put P. G. Wodehouse at the one end and Jim Harrison at the other, with Christopher Buckley, Nick Hornby, Kingsley Amis, David Lodge, and Kate Atkinson in the middle, more or less in that order subject to aberration for particular books.

With that in mind, I can't say that I was disappointed with Paradise Postponed, the first book I've read by John Mortimer, an English author noted for his humorous books (including his popular Rumpole series), but I was thrown off. Without rational basis, I had it in my head that his books were going to be closer to the Wodehouse end of the scale and Paradise Postponed was much closer to the Harrison end – somewhere between Lodge and Atkinson. It took a while for me to enjoy the story while my expectations readjusted.

I ended up enjoying Paradise Postponed well enough, even if I didn't love it. It is my favorite kind of comic story about English village life with the requisite nutty vicar, illicit lovers, country doctor, and mix of difficult and lovable family members, all involved in a series of funny adventures. The story moves between the present in the 1980s back to post WWII days, as two middle-aged brothers try to figure out why their father, a communist clergyman, left his estate to a Conservative cabinet minister.

None of the characters were very likeable, and snarky jibes at Thatcherism have lost their bite after twenty-some years, but the story pulled me in and there were plenty of funny bits. I'm up for the sequel, Titmuss Regained, and will give barrister Rumpole a try.


If you would like your review of this or any other John Mortimer book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


This counted as one of my books for the TBR challenges I am doing this year.


Harvee Lau said...

An easy humorous read is a good book to have sometimes, especially if you are in the mood for British country scenes and stock characters.

Rose City Reader said...

HL: This one turned out to be less humorous than I had hoped. I'll read more of his books, but next time I'm in the mood for British village life and stock characters, I think I'll stick to an Agatha Christie. :)

fiction-books said...

Hi Gilion,

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), these stereotypical English country villages are becoming few and far between, in this cosmopolitan era.

To discover one which has a resident doctor and vicar, is a rarity indeed. Most village parishes have to share one vicar between several, with individual churches opening on a rota basis for Sunday service. When not in use most churches are kept locked, to avoid the devastation of vandalism.

People unfortunately, do still jibe about margaret Thatcher, even after all this time, with many taking a look at the current day shambles of a government and wistfully looking back on an era when we had a party leader, who was willing to lead from the front.

I don't know if the humour in the 'Rumpole' series, is maybe a little too 'British'. The television adapted scripts were very dry and drole in their humour, with numerous references to Rumpole's long suffering wife 'She Who Must Be Obeyed'

I am glad that you were in tune with the British sense of humour in this book and hope that you similarly enjoy 'Rumpole', if you decide to give him a try!

Thanks for an interesting post,


Nan said...

I saw this years ago on PBS, and didn't care for it. I believe I picked up the books but didn't finish. I find both books to be unusual for Mortimer. I did enjoy Summer's Lease. I love the Rumpole books, and JM's 3 autobiographies. I hope you will give them a chance, and not judge him on this book.
I read much of the Rumpole series before beginning my blog, but I do have a couple postings if you'd like to get the flavor of the Rumpole books.

TracyK said...

I liked your description of the continuum of humor in books. I don't really go for the very funny end but I enjoy books that "leaven a heavy story with a little comedy". I just finished a Reginald Hill mystery and I appreciated the subtle humor there. And I do want to try John Mortimer and the Rumpole books. But you make this one sound interesting too. I like English villages in fiction.

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