My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book made me laugh from the very first page.
“I have noticed that when someone asks for you on the telephone and, finding you out, leaves a message begging you to call him up the moment you come in, as it's important, the matter is often more important to him than to you.”It is a satire of the world of letters, and also of a small British village. It is alleged that the great writer he describes is meant to be Thomas Hardy. The story is told in the first person and moves back and forth in time quite seamlessly. Now and then the narrator speaks up in his role as author of the novel, but mostly he sits back and unwinds his recollections and observations of the world (and himself) for the reader. The writing is excellent, the observations spot-on, and the story well structured. My only quibble with it is that I would have liked to have a better sense of how the narrator became the man he did. We learn a lot about his boyhood, and the kind of boy he was, but it felt like there was a big change between the boy and the man telling the story which wasn't accounted for fully.
This book is one of my Classics Club titles and could be counted toward the Back to the Classics challenge as either "a 20th century classic" (first published in 1930) or "a classic set in a place you'd like to visit" (much of it is in London).