The Alteration: Kingsley Amis

★★★★

I really didn’t get on with Lucky Jim, the only Amis novel I’d read so far, but just couldn’t resist this piece of counterfactual fiction. What if Henry VII’s eldest son Arthur hadn’t died and Henry VIII had never inherited, never married Katharine of Aragon and never needed to divorce her? What if England had remained Catholic? What if Martin Luther, rather than hammering theses on doors at Wittenberg, had been listened to, respected, and allowed to exercise his desire for reform as Pope? And what if gifted boy singers were still invited to consider a discreet ‘alteration’ that would help them preserve their voices for the glory of God? Set in a 1976 that might have been, The Alteration is a tantalising, clever vision of what the world might have become.

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Lucky Jim: Kingsley Amis

★★★

It’s 1950 and Jim Dixon is fed up. Having served in the Second World War, he has returned to academia in lieu of anything better to do and is now at the end of his first year teaching Medieval History at an unnamed provincial university. It’s a subject for which he feels no particular affection or aptitude; indeed, he has developed a particular loathing for it. His discontent radiates outwards, encompassing the insular and petty world of the university, those of his students intelligent enough to risk exposing him for the fraud he is, and virtually all his colleagues.

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