(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

NICE WORK spans the winter term at Rummidge University, playfully modeled after Lodge’s own Birmingham, in the English Midlands. In observance of officially proclaimed Industrial Year, Robyn Penrose, a temporary lecturer specializing in feminist theory and the nineteenth century English industrial novel, is assigned to spend one day a week observing a senior manager at a manufacturing plant. She spends her Wednesdays at the low-tech factory of an engineering firm run by forty-five-year-old Vic Wilcox. Robyn, a feminist intellectual more comfortable with irony than iron works, and Vic, a proletarian who has worked himself into affluence, could hardly be more different in background and attitude. Yet, inevitably, despite Vic’s wife and Robyn’s boyfriend, the two become romantically involved and learn to see the world through each other’s eyes.

Lodge provides an informative excursion into the daily activities of workers at an industrial plant and department of English. His two main characters provide an entertaining dialectic between abstract and concrete, female and male, theory and praxis, and he offers the sentimental optimism that the two can be reconciled. Lodge’s characteristic technique is to crosscut between the parallel and contrasting lives of an academic and a businessman, and his recurring plot, here as elsewhere, is that of changing places. The main characters of CHANGING PLACES resurface in NICE WORK in cameo roles. It is a novel that merits its title.

Sources for Further Study

The Christian Science Monitor. March 8, 1989, p.11.

Contemporary Review. CCLIV, January, 1989, p.45.

Illustrated London News. CCLXXVI, November, 1988, p.81.

Library Journal. CXIV, June 1, 1989, p.146.

Listener. CXX, September 29, 1988, p.41.

London Review of Books. X, September 29, 1988, p.11.

The New Republic. CCI, September 18, 1989, p.46.

The New York Review of Books. XXXVI, November 23, 1989, p.18.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, July 23, 1989, p.1.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, June 2, 1989, p.67.

Punch. CCXCV, September 30, 1988, p.50.

The Spectator. CCLXI, September 24, 1988, p.37.

The Times Educational Supplement. December 23, 1988, p.9.

The Times Literary Supplement. September 23, 1988, p.1040.

The Washington Post Book World. XIX, August 13, 1989, p.3.