When someone tells me they like reading novels, this is exactly the sort of book I imagine them reading, sitting in a comfy, worn-out armchair, possibly by the fire. A great meaty novel.
‘Paradise Postponed’ is a satire, but not a satire the way some authors understand it, i.e. you have to be funny in every single sentence, as if the whole book were part of your stand-up routine (inevitably ending up being not funny at all). Another side effect of such ha-ha-ha funny is that all characters end up being cartoonish which makes it impossible to get emotionally involved in the story.
Mortimer doesn’t fall in that trap, he is only funny when there is a really good joke and it’s quite enough. His characters are real, yet the satire on the British class system is still cutting.
It’s essentially a story of what happens to a family when the father, leftist minister (as in a religious one, rather than the one who is in the government), dies and leaves all his money to a sleazy Tory MP. Everyone is a little confused to say the least and tries to deal with it in a different way. Old secrets get uncovered and some hilarity ensues.
Here are some quotes that are way better than this review:
“She felt a tightness in her chest and sent for Dr Simcox.
'What's the trouble?'
'Look out there, that's the trouble! It's so green and quiet and it's always bloody raining.'
'That's England, Mrs Mallard-Greene. I'm afraid there's no known cure for it.”
“The first sight of the Rapstone Valley is of something unexpectedly isolated and uninterruptedly rural; a solitary jogger is the only outward sign of urban pollution.”
“She believed that, in an ideal world, the working class would rule the country, but she had no particular desire to ask any of them to tea.”
“You can't change people. You know that. You can't make them stop hating each other, or longing to blow up the world, not by walking through the rain and singing to a small guitar. Most you can do for them is pull them out of the womb, thump them on the backside and let them get on with it.”
“Oh, you think everyone's interesting. That's because you're a Red. I don't. I believe that quite a lot of people were just manufactured when God was thinking of something else.”
“Take sex, for instance.'
'What do you want me to do with it?'
'Try to be serious for a moment. Take the sex life of our father.'
Even after a couple of brandies he felt extremely reluctant to discuss sex and his father. 'It's something I'd rather not think about,' he said. 'We all come into existence as a result of a momentary embrace by our parents which find impossible to imagine. [...] We all assume we're the result of our own particular immaculate conception.”
“He's a cabinet minister and his mother was a cook. My father was a doctor and I'm a cook. Perhaps I passed him on the way down, or did he pass me on the way up?”
“Alfie Dawlish. Invented all sorts of imaginary ailments for the family at the Manor so he could rob them and treat the village for nothing. It was his primitive version of the Health Service”
“What on earth was Henry talking about?'
'His soul. I wonder where he keeps it.”
“A hundred pounds! He couldn't remember ever having seen a hundred pounds, all at one time. He found himself envying his father, who had nothing to worry about except the future of mankind.”
“In the middle of the swinging sixties people in England were apparently under some sort of obligation to have a good time and most of them didn't. A Russian and an American walked about in space to no one's particular advantage. The Beatles received their British Empire medals and, so it was said, smoked cannabis in the lavatories at Buckingham Palace. American aeroplanes were bombing Vietnam, but no one seemed to talk about the nuclear holocaust any more.”