Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

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Mortimer’s autobiography covers his writing career to 1970, when he had a reputation more as a barrister than as a writer, even though he had written a substantial number of novels, stage dramas, and scripts for television and films. It was in 1970 that A Voyage Round My Father, his first play since the short The Dock Brief (1957) to draw strongly favorable reviews, was produced. In 1975, a single Rumpole episode on television proved successful enough that six series of Rumpole stories were eventually televised and published in the 1980’s. It was in the 1970’s and 1980’s as well that Mortimer’s impressive television adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945, 1959), Robert Graves’s I, Claudius (1934), and his own A Voyage Round My Father received high critical acclaim. Clinging to the Wreckage serves as Mortimer’s assertion that in 1970, his career as writer is replacing that of jurist.

Clinging to the Wreckage is important because it clarifies the autobiographical sources of much of Mortimer’s other work. Furthermore, it sheds light, with a Dickensian sharpness of detail, on a life, a time, and the ultimately absurd condition of man.