Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

‘Lucky Jim’ by Kingsley Amis tells the story of James Dixon, (a character supposedly inspired by Philip Larkin, as Wikipedia reliably informs me) who has stumbled into a job as a medieval history lecturer at a redbrick university in the Midlands mostly by accident.  Due to his northern, non-elitist background, he frequently finds himself out of place in academic circles and the story recounts the often farcical episodes of his early career.  At the beginning of the story, Dixon is worried that he will not be reappointed at the end of his probationary year but ends up making a series of gaffes in his efforts to keep his job as well as trying to deal with his on-off girlfriend, Margaret. 

‘Lucky Jim’ is a comic novel but perhaps not the sort that will make you laugh out loud.  The humour is subtly satirical and was probably quite radical at the time it was published in 1954.  This is an observation rather than a criticism but for me, as a reader in the twenty-first century, ‘Lucky Jim’ seemed rather quaint.   I was also very conscious of the fact that ‘Lucky Jim’ is about a very specific era in that the book could only have been written at the time that it was.  While my mother’s home background was similar to that of Dixon, her experience of university in the early 1970s bears pretty much no relation to the story described here (she didn’t become an academic though).  It just struck me that the world changed a lot in a very short space of time after the war and universities even more so.  Pretentiousness does still exist but not as it does here.

The plot does amble a bit and the humour ran patchily throughout the story.  The strength of the book lies more with the characters as you would probably expect in a comic novel.  Dixon is very memorable as a character and although the setting may now seem dated, there are some general observations about human nature that will still resonate with future generations, hence why ‘Lucky Jim’ is now deemed by many to be a classic.  I do still wonder what people will make of this book in a hundred years time though.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

  1. I read this book years ago (although not in the 50s!) and loved the subtle British humour. This is the sort of classic I have no problem picking up!

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  2. Thanks for this review. I’ve been wanting to read some Amis, but didn’t know where to start. If you’ve read some of his other works, would you recommend them over Lucky Jim?

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  3. Interesting commentary. I read this for university in 1974, and as an American I didn’t get the class-war comedy of it. I thought the protagonist silly, and the overall story rather provincial. Amis is supposed to be so clever but it seemed dated even then. I think in 100 years this book will be forgotten. “Quaint” is a good word for it.

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  4. Pingback: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  5. Interesting to read and compare Kingsley’s novels with those of his son and heir Martin Amis. It’s not everyone’s cup tea, but I really enjoyed ‘Money’ written in the mid 80’s.

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  6. Pingback: Book Acquired Recently: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis | Daniel Shank Cruz: Reader, Writer, Thinker

  7. Hi! My name is Brianna. Few a months now, I have been doing an author study project for my sixth grade GT Language Arts class. The author that I am studying is Kingsley Amis, and right now, I am currently reading one of his many books. That book is The Russian Girl.
    Right now, I am in the middle of reading chapter two, and so far, the book is pretty interesting. The setting of The Russian Girl takes place in London, France, somewhere around the nineteen nineties. I have also learned a lot about the characters, their personalities, and what they do for a living. Some of the characters that I have been introduced to are Richard Vaisey, Cordelia Vaisey, Tristram Hallett, Crispin Radetsky, Godfrey Radetsky, and Anna Danilova.
    I have learned that most of these characters work together in a small office corporation and are really good friends. I have also learned that Richard Vaisey and, his wife, Cordelia Vaisey, are having some troubles with their marriage and have been fighting a lot. Anna Danilova, on the other hand, is a Russian poet that comes to visit London.
    I have studied the Russian language and culture for two and a half years now, so it helps me understand some terms that they use, and the whole book all together. The title is the main reason I chose this book to read. The Russian language, history, and culture are really interesting to me, and when I seen this book, I was really drawn in.
    The Russian Girl is a story of romance, but it also has humor in it, too. The characters are humorous and fun people. So far, this has been a great book, and I suggest that you read some of Kingsley Amis’s books such as Lucky Jim because it is a terrific book. Until my next post, thank you for reading!

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  8. Hi! It’s Brianna again. Right now, I am in the middle of reading chapter four in The Russian Girl. So far during Anna Danilova’s, one of the main characters that is otherwise known as a Russian poetess, visit, everyone has taken a great liking to her. Sometimes, Richard Vaisey can get annoyed when she talks a lot with her hard-to-understand accent. Besides that, everyone enjoys having Anna around.
    Still in the middle of his studies, Richard Vaisey gets side-tracked easily by going out with his friends, and by other work problems. With Anna being Russian, Cordellia tries her best to speak the foreign language as best as she can, but she does not speak fluently and doesn’t understand a single word of it.
    Richard is kind of like Anna’s guide, and takes her on trips around town. Being in the busy city of London, the main ways of transportation are taxi cabs. Anna and Richard go to a lot of places together, and I think that they will go on even bigger adventures later on in the book.
    I have been introduced to some new characters in the book, some such as Mrs. Pearson, Sandy, Anatoly McKinnon, Hoffman, and Andreas. These characters do not appear much in these chapters, but are still kind of interesting.
    I predict that later in the book, Anna Danilova and Richard Vaisey will fall in love. Since Richard and Cordelia, his wife, are already having problems with their marriage, I think they will get divorced, and Richard and Anna Will get married.
    This is such a great book, and I can’t wait to read more. Until my next post, thank you!

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  9. Hi! It’s Brianna again. Recently, I have read chapters five, six, seven, and eight. During these chapters, the true reason Richard Vaisey studied the Russian language was revealed. He did it because he fell in love with Anna Danilova. Richard was already studying it, but when he met Anna, it became more of a passion. He fell in love with the Russian culture and Anna. Something else that I found out was that Anna’s brother is in a U.S.S.R Prison and will not be set free. Anna and Richard wrote a letter demanding they set him free.
    So far, I have been introduced to two new characters, and they are Professor Leon and Sergei. I have been learning a lot about the others, also. Something that I learned is that Anna is in love with Richard. Also, Richard goes to parties and elegant dinners with his friends after work.
    I have been reading a lot more from this large book because one of the characters is just like me. That character is Richard Vaisey. He has a passion for the Russian history, culture, language, and religion. Both, me and Richard, can read, write, and speak the Russian language. Well, I may not be as fluent at it as Richard, but I still think that I am pretty good.
    I predict that later on in the book, Anna’s brother will be let out of the U.S.S.R prison, and I also think that Richard’s studies will come in handy. Perhaps if Richard and Anna move to Russia together. Throughout the book, I hope I get to learn some new things about Russia that I didn’t know before.
    Well, The Russian Girl really is a fantastic book, and I can’t wait to read more. Until my next post, thanks!

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  10. Hi! It’s Brianna, and I have read chapters nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen. In these chapters, I was introduced to one new character, and that was Sir Stephen who was a famous architect. Sir Stephen came to the office to gather signatures to be able to release Anna’s brother, Sergei, out of the U.S.S.R prison and into his care. I learned that Sergei was sent to the prison due to economical crimes and buying electronics and selling them for more than they are worth.
    I enjoyed these chapters because they contained a lot of humor and made me laugh. I can tell that Anna Danilova and Richard Vaisey are falling more in love, and the co-workers start to notice. The relationship may start to interfere with Richard and Cordelia’s relationship, but he’d be better off with Anna.
    Richard had found one of Anna’s poetry journels and read some of her poems. Some of her poems are romantic, but some seem to be filled with hate against someone she dislikes. Richard did not take time to read all of them because he seen the first few poems and felt that he did not need to read any more because he had seen enough of her amazing work already.
    Also in these chapters, Richard talks about trying to communicate with Hong- Kong and China, but will probably never will because he gets sidetracked easily.
    In this story, Richard does not really express his feelings for Anna or open up to her. Later on, I think that Richard will come out and say everything that he has had inside of him and share it with Anna.
    I appreciate you taking the time to read. Until my next post, thank you!

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  11. Hi! It’s Brianna again, and this is for Leeswammes. I, also loved the book Lucky Jim. I did enjoy the British humor, and there is a lot of that in The Russian Girl. If you loved Lucky Jim, you’ll love The Russian Girl. It’ll become one of your Kingsley Amis favorites. I recommend that you read it. The more you read of it, the more you love it. Thanks!

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  12. Hi! It’s Brianna, and this is for danielshankcruz. I recommend The Russian Girl because it is humorous and all of the characters are interesting, but I would not recommend it over Lucky Jim. Lucky Jim is much more humorous and entertaining. Although, I do hope that you get a chance to read The Russian Girl. Thanks!

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  13. Hi! It’s Brianna again, and this is my last post. Lately, I finished my book, and it had a great ending. I was introduced to a few new characters like Dr. Kotolynov, Mr. Raskolnikov, and Mr. Ippolitov. In these chapters, Anna is offered a Russian-to-English,vice versa, translator job by Cordelia, but denies it because she has come to dislike Cordelia. The two fight for a while, but eventually decide to grow up and be mature.
    In these chapters, Richard spills. He tells Anna how he feels about her, and they get together. Cordelia and Richard split. These chapters were amazing because I thought that Richard and Anna would become a couple, and they did. At the end it was a shocker. Anna’s brother, Sergei, died in the prison before he got a chance to get out. The possible reasons were lead poisoning or natural causes.
    Richard practically spends all his time in Brussel with Anna, and he tries to keep in touch with his old friends and co-workers. He sends letters now and then, and Tristram becomes the new “Richard”.
    Thank you for reading, and I enjoyed writing to you. Bye!

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