I've read this book so many times, but not for a while now, and feared that perhaps its greatness had been exaggerated in my memory. But no: in fact it felt more like I'd forgotten how good it was.
This wasn't intended to be the first of a series, and it really does stand up in its own right: it's a beautifully complete story, from the first page where Reggie doesn't dream of calling his mother-in-law a hippopotamus, to the last, where Martin Wellbourne and Elizabeth visit the garden of remembrance. The book's title was originally "The Death of Reginald Perrin", and that fits better.
I was struck by how rich the book is: not only does loads happen in the story, but there are so many characters who are introduced, all of whom are written so well: Tom, Linda, Mark, Jimmy, CJ, Doc Morrissey... they are like a bunch of old friends, but I'd sort of assumed in hindsight that they were developed through the other books. But they're all well defined here. The one exception is Elizabeth - I've always thought she was a bit weak as a character, and I don't think that's just because she doesn't have her own catchphrase.
Although I'd not read it for some time, still many of the phrases in the book are familiar to me, and this made hearing the book read aloud a bit trying when the reader (can't remember his name) used the wrong emphasis (which he did a couple of times). So I think I'd prefer reading it myself, but it is a nice change to hear it read, and I laughed and cried (especially at the epilogue), despite (or maybe a bit because) none of it was a surprise.
The next one is on order from the library.
Completed : 27-Apr-2006 (audiobook)