Lucky Jim is a campus novel set in the postwar years in England. After reading The House of Sleep (another campus novel), and stumbling on a joke about Amis in the displaced footnotes episodes (for those who have read it), I remembered that I had a copy of Lucky Jim somewhere on my shelves. It got there in the first place after I read The Art of Fiction by David Lodge (another campus novel writer, who wrote the introduction to Lucky Jim), because Lodge made it sound incredibly funny…

But as Lodge himself writes in the introduction, "Lucky Jim is not, […] as continuously funny as one remembers it being […]."  So, as for fun expectations, I was a little disappointed. But Lucky Jim is also a coming-of-age story in which the hero, Jim Dixon, learns about himself, relationships, and about the academic environment in which he feels uncomfortable and out of place.

Jim Dixon works as a lecturer in the history department. The Professor he works for, Mr. Welch, is distracted, evasive, and likes to delegate most of his tasks to underlings such as Jim. When the story begins, Jim’s position, which is on trial for two years anyway, is threatened because of a couple of blunders he made. To earn the consideration of Welch, he has to go out of his way to please him: he must take part in a madrigal-singing week-end at his place, prepare a public lecture on the subject "Merrie England" (Jim specializes in the Middle-Ages although he hates this period of history), and resist the attraction he feels towards Christine, the girlfriend of Welch’s conceited son Bertrand…

In the beginning, Jim rebels against bourgeois values and academic hypocrisies by making faces behind the back of his offenders, and, in the course of the story, he starts to learn how to stand for himself. The hardest challenge he has to face is probably Margaret, a neurotic young woman who emotionally blackmails him…

Finally, I liked Lucky Jim as much for its serious parts as for its funny parts. The humor is a bit dated, even though I could recognize myself in Jim’s way of dealing with the burnt blankets… I thought that Kingsley Amis has a fine psychological approach of his characters, and even though I could relate more to the social context of The House of Sleep and its characters, which takes place in the 1980’s and late 1990’s (after all, I was a student in the 90’s), I still enjoyed it.

Rating: 3,5/5