cover image Nice Work

Nice Work

David Lodge. Viking Books, $18.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82806-7

His tongue caustic, and his take on British society provocative and funny, Lodge skewers virtually every aspect of Thatcherite Britain in this top-notch satirical novel, a sequel to Small World . Set in an industrial city in the Midlands, the story's protagonists are Vic Wilcox, managing director of a failing engineering firm, and Robyn Penrose, temporary lecturer in English lit at the University of Rummidge. Robyn is chosen to ``shadow'' Vic at the factory one day a week, as part of a program to effect a liaison between the university and local industry. A ``trendy leftist feminist'' with highfalutin views about the evils of industrial capitalism, Robyn looks down on Vic, whose education is scanty and whose lifestyle is diametrically opposed to hers. Gradually, however, the two acquire a grudging respect for each other and, as the plot becomes agreeably convoluted, the pragmatic engineer (whose criterion is ``who pays?'') and the pedantic literary critic change places on fortune's ladder. Scarcely anything escapes Lodge's scorn--from business ethics to academic fustian--but the satire is never excessive. To be published simultaneously with an earlier work, Out of the Shelter (Penguin paperback), this lively comic novel--short-listed for last year's Booker Prize--is the perfect book to introduce Lodge to those American readers not yet acquainted with his work. (Aug . )