London Fields

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 469

Amis has made a reputation as a novelist with his shameless and piercing satires of contemporary English life. In LONDON FIELDS, his sixth novel, Amis dissects English society with even more skill and satiric fervor. The novel is narrated by Samson Young, a writer who has traded his New York residence for the London apartment of dramatists Mark Asprey. Young has come to London to make one last attempt at writing a murder mystery before he dies of an unknown disease. LONDON FIELDS may be that mystery.

The central character of the novel is Nicola Six, who is described as being thirty-four and beautiful. She admits to being a male fantasy figure and is, therefore, perceived differently by each of her suitors. Nicola Six also realizes that she is a “murderee” in search of a murderer. It is never made clear, though, why she does not try to alter this destiny.

The suitors--and potential murderers--who play major roles in LONDON FIELDS are Keith Talent and Guy Clinch. Talent is a totally reprehensible character. He is fond of pornography and regularly beats his wife. There is not much with which to sympathize, but Amis has made Talent the most vivid character in the novel. At times, in fact, Talent is too vivid and a detriment to the overall cohesiveness of the novel. The other suitor, Guy Clinch, is rich and naive. He is convinced by Nicola Six that she is still a virgin even though she has led a promiscuous life. She becomes what her male suitors believe her to be. Reality is blurred. Illusion rules the day. The narrator even inserts himself into the action at various points. LONDON FIELDS works very well as a novel when it focuses on the burdens of its characters. Amis does attempt to superimpose a larger scenario involving world destruction because of a nuclear holocaust, but that is not developed enough so as to warrant major impact. A number of symbolic devices employed by the author only serve to annoy and not to enlighten. On the whole though, Amis has succeeded, even with the grim circumstances, in making LONDON FIELDS a wildly entertaining portrait of contemporary England as it plunges into the twenty-first century.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Thibune. March 4, 1990, XIV, p. 1.

The Christian Science Monitor. April 11, 1990, p. 12.

London Review of Books. XI, September 28, 1989, p.7.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 4, 1990, p.3.

The Nation. CCL, April 23, 1990, p.565.

The New Republic. CCII, April 30, 1990, p.45.

New Statesman and Society. II, September 22, 1989, p.34.

The New York Times Book Review. XCV, March 4, 1990, p. 1.

Newsweek CXV, March 5, 1990, p. 62.

The Observer. September 24, 1989, p.47.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, January 5, 1990, p.62.

The Spectator. CCLXIII, September 23, 1989, p.36.

Time. CXXXV, February 26, 1990, p.71

The Times Literary Supplement. September 29, 1989, p.1051.

The Wall Street Journal. March 13, 1990, p. A14.

The Washington Post Book World. XX, February 18, 1990, p.3.

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