Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nice Work - A Critical Book Review

The book being reviewed for this exercise is Nice Work, by David Lodge (1998). Most of you would have read it as part of the text prescribed by Monash for one of the units.

Nice Work essentially uses a comparison of the different thinking in academia and the industry to connect and form a balance perception of what is ideal and what is the ‘real’ world as a response to the outside world in contemporary life and society.

The purpose of Lodge’s writing in his book appears to advocate two points: the academia’s ability over industry expertise, and the subjection of man to woman. The book suggests that knowledge of businesses is not enough, and working smart is better. This may be seen in the fact that the lead male character in the book, Victor Wilcox, eventually has to ‘bow’ to Robyn for money in order to startup a new business and to keep his family alive.

This connotation in the theme is what I dislike about the book. It portrays the man as easily subdued by the opposite sex because of sensual desires. Victor is seen almost begging to be accepted by Robyn who is the ‘third’ party breaking up his family. Even though the story ends with Victor patching up with his wife, it essentially implies that Robyn still holds the key to his life (Lodge 1988:380).

‘I’m afraid I’ve been a bit foolish.’

‘I’ve been living in a dream. This business has woken me up. I must have been out of my mind, imagining you would see anything in a middle-aged dwarf engineer.’

‘You’re a very special person, Robyn,’ Victor says solemnly. ‘One day you’ll meet a man who deserves to marry you.’

The above quotes demean man in general, and as a theme of the story, this is disconcerting because it ‘attacks’ not only character, but also a particular gender. To be fair however, it must be said that the book is quite successful in the use of language, narrative structure and style, as it is highly readable and without complexity. The characters portrayed of the other supporting people in the story are believable, with some not at all likeable, such as, Charles and Brian Everthorpe.

From the way the narrative has been structured in Nice Work, together with the simple language and alluring easy-to-read style, David Lodge has successfully given sufficient reasons why readers will want to read his work, demonstrating the many facets of good writing, which include a believable plot, a sense of humour and irony, and the identification with ‘real’ characters in the academia and industry.


Lodge, D (1988), Nice Work. London: Penguin Books.

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