The Itinerant Lodger, by David Nobbs

This is David Nobbs' first novel, no longer in print but obtained through abebooks from Canada for 20. There's only one book I still have to get now: his third novel, "A Piece of the Sky is Missing", but since the only copy I can find is 300 I'll leave that for a while. In an unintentional piece of symmetry, it looks like this is the last book I'll complete this year, having started the year with his most recent book, Sex and Other Changes.

Although some of the writing here is characteristically Nobbs-ian, it's a bit of a strange book. It follows the fortunes of the titular lodger, who at one stage is called Wilson, but whose assumes different names as the story progresses. It's not clear whether these name changes are instigated by "Wilson" himself, or whether he's unaware that he ever had any other name: the whole book has a surreal feel to it (I think I've seen the book described as Kafka-esque).

At the start of the book, "Wilson" moves in to new lodgings, intending to spend his time writing poetry, after having been dismissed from a series of varied jobs. But time passes, and no poetry comes. So he looks for another job, becomes a bus-conductor, is dismissed for allowing 215 people on the bus (because he didn't want to turn anyone away), and then finds himself on trial for a "crime" which he doesn't remember, involving his "wife" who he's never heard of.

The things "Wilson" does which result in his losing jobs have echoes of Reggie Perrin, but because the whole book is a bit dream-like, don't seem quite so out of place. And the landlady and her other lodgers remind me of Perrin and Pratt. But on the whole I didn't "get" the book: I am not sure if it's meant to be an allegory, or what. There was nothing at the end of the book that made sense of the story... so more an interesting read than an enjoyable one.

Completed : 24-Dec-2005

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