The Folks That Live on the Hill

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The main character of THE FOLKS THAT LIVE ON THE HILL is Harry Caldecote, a man who should be welcoming a life of leisure in the London suburb of Shepherd’s Hill, but who finds himself constantly attempting to straighten out the little and large difficulties of those persons close to him. These lost and misguided souls who keep Harry from having a settled retirement include an alcoholic niece of his first wife, a daughter of his second wife who is involved in a lesbian relationship, a brother who is dominated by his wife, a sister who has moved in with him, and a son from his first marriage who lives by his wits and the money of others. Harry tries and tries again to help the people of his world to muddle through.

THE FOLKS THAT LIVE ON THE HILL is for the most part a quiet book. Amis’ satire is more subtle in this his twentieth novel. There do not seem to be as many axes to grind for Amis anymore. In the past, he has outraged certain segments of the population with his conservative barbs and mocking witticisms. For the most part, this latest installment in the Amis canon is more pleasant than preachy. Amid all the trials and tribulations of this assortment of characters, there are lives that get better, if only ever so slightly. Amis has made his reputation as a tough comic novelist, a harsh critic of anything that seeks to push aside the old traditions, a formidable foe of anything that strikes him as ridiculous. Because he is so good at what he does, he makes some readers wince and squirm. THE FOLKS THAT LIVE ON THE HILL may mark the appearance of a more mellow Kingsley Amis, but he still has his touch; he still knows how to write humorously and about the human condition.