The Joke of the Century

David Hughes, Author Taplinger Publishing Company $14.95 (223p) ISBN 978-0-8008-4419-6
The sophistication and class-conscious humor of Hughes's (The Pork Butcher latest novel may be a little lost on U.S. audiences. It is based on Billy Bunter, a legendary, idiosyncratically fat, fictional character who has caught the imagination of generations of British schoolboys. As a comparison, one must imagine Beaver Cleaver or Dennis the Menace as adults, interfering in American/world history. Patrick Weymouth, a 50-year-old civil servant, is introduced to the obese 90-year-old hedonist Archibald Aitken, supposedly the real-life model for Bunter. As their relationship develops, Aitken/Bunter rediscovers his youth through Weymouth, entertaining him with outrageous accounts of 20th century history in which he took part. Bunter, in typical fashion, claims to be the cause of the Titanic disaster and the prolongation of the First World War; he introduced Mrs. Simpson to the future King Edward VIII, and much more. Bunter's role makes history look ridiculouswhich is probably closer to the truth than most of us wish to admit. This is the strength in Hughes's entertaining, well-written book. It's just a pity it doesn't have a little more bite. (October 1)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1986
Release date: 10/01/1986
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