The Old Reliable

Here is a sentence that begins with the deep predication of Henry James, though not with his tone, and proceeds to a cadenza in the unmistakable Amis mode: "On current form he would never be in danger of imagining that her merely being his sister somehow made Clare less effectively a woman than the rest of her sex, or what was nowadays called her gender, as if like all the others she had become a noun or adjectival form in an inflected language." There is a divinity that shapes Kingsley Amis's prose style, rough-hew it how he will.

I read Amis, as I think many others do, in order to read sentences like that one, and even better ones. While there is no shortage of such in The Folks That Live on the Hill, that is not the only cause to enjoy Amis's latest novel. Others are the old-fashioned virtues of characterization, development, suspense, and incidental comedy. Also there are atmosphere, social observation, sense of place—the entire composition being the picture of England that is really a postcard from Amisland.

The Folks That Live on the Hill mines something of the same vein as The Old Devils, Difficulties With Girls, and Stanley and the Women, recent Amis productions. There are the themes of alcohol, sex, aging, the decline of the quality of life, the meager but necessary survival of love, courtesy, and good will. There is the broad canvas of characters...

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