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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Book Review - Wilt by Tom Sharpe

First published 1976
Version read: Kindle edition


I first read this book many many years ago when I was in my mid-teens, and I remember loving it. I decided to revisit it as an adult but was slightly dubious. Would it be as good as I remembered?

 To be honest it was even better - most of the humour is broad enough for even a teenage reader to enjoy but there's a sophistication here that must have gone over my head years ago. I think with this re-reading I got more out the book. It had me laughing like a loon several times and my heart was totally taken by Henry Wilt, the downtrodden everyman who manages to stand up to and best the establishment after a comical series of events culminate in him being arrested for a murder he didn't commit.

 Several scenes are genuinely side-splitting - the section where the inflatable doll (with a vagina!) is pulled from the concrete filled tomb had me roaring and I had to look around several times in embarresment. I was reading the book while parked up in Tesco's carpark and people passing must have thought that I had lost my mind as I sat there  screaming with uncontrollable laughter. The highlight of the book for me, were the interrogation scenes between Henry Wilt and the non nonsense policeman, Inspector Flint. These scenes are a masterclass in comedic writing and are among the best written comedy I have ever read. Inspector Flint starts out in control but gradually Wilt turns the tables, and it is the policeman who ends up being worn down as the tables are turned on his interrigation. In face Wilt takes strength from the constant police attacks and even drives a psychiatrst ,called in to examine him, to the brink of madness. The Wilt character may belong to the middle classes of the times but he comes across as a true working class hero in his dealings with the pomposity of the establishment.

How could I pick fault with this book when it is just so entertaining? Of course modern readers may find it a little misogynistic and while some of the attitudes expressed in these pages may belong firmly to the era in which the book was written, to condemn it for these reasons would be a mistake. Eve Wilt is painted as a truly formidable character. So much so that the reader can empathise with her husband's murderous intentions towards her, and at no point does she feel like an helpless victim. Quite the contrary it is her husband, Henry who comes across as the victim. He is just a passive personality who bumbles his way through the book, while events befall him that will result in him regaining - no not regaining but  discovering his manhood for the first time, and coming out very much on top.

At the end of the book both Henry and Eve Wilt have undergone a transformation and this reader was left with split sides and an urge for more Henry Wilt.

Hugely entertaining...


1 comment:

oscar case said...

Sounds terrific. Great review.