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Girl, 20
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Girl, 20

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  382 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Life in London means glamour, fashion, finance and art. Consider then an aging conductor, husband in an unsatisfactory marriage, father to an unhappy brood. When a young woman responds to his overtures, he breaks the marriage and bursts the family...alas, everyone loses in this drama, for nothing puts people together again.

Kingsley Amis is one of England's finest men of l

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Hardcover, 253 pages
Published 1972 by The Book Club Edition, London (first published 1971)
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Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Probably best placed in the category alongside excavated neolithic flint tools - useful only for its historic insights but about as anachronistic as kipper ties, muttonchop whiskers, and getting turned over in police cells. We should thank our lucky stars that the attitudes herein are largely confined to the past.
Sam Schulman
One of the great moral novels of our parents' time: Amis proves himself here a successor to Jane Austen and Sophocles in his dramatization of the moral rules that are older than the gods and how they play out in contemporary, historically rooted life. Nothing so dated as the Goodreads reviews here that criticize the datedness of the setting: sooner rather than later, the BBC will be making a 3-hour costume drama adaptation, and later rather than sooner, some Peter Sellars of the future will be r ...more
Anthony
This book, described as a comic novel, is not actually all that funny. A lot of the humor is in the form of satirical descriptions of the state of popular culture in the late 60s and 70s, as well as the portrait of Roy Vandervane, an aging leftist who chases that culture (and a 17 year old girl who epitomizes it). Unfortunately, satirical stuff has a whining tone, and perhaps I just don't share some British cultural understanding that would make Vandervane a believable character, but it ended up ...more
Alia S
Part of getting older is doing more and more of those things which we do not want to do, and leaving undone more and more of those things which we want to do. Because there are fewer and fewer people round the place to do them with.

I thought this was hilarious, but it’s very British: I imagine it’ll verge on foreign-language novel or period piece for most U.S. readers. But if you speak (sorry,“have”) conversational public-school English, you’ll recognize enduring, comic, and—actually—universal t

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David
3 1/2 stars. Set in swinging late 60s London, Kinsley Amis's classical music-infused infidelity farce is a bit like urban P.G. Wodehouse with crappier behavior. Our half-assed hero is a classical music critic for a second-tier London paper; he's friends with a famous conductor whose extra-marital affair is the plot's centerpiece. The book is fast and fun, and Mahler haters will savor every snarky word of one particular rehearsal scene. But it's a bit slapdash: the expository purpose of some conv ...more
Peter
This books invites accusations that it is dated. The barbs at hippies/the 70s right-thinking left, etc., are certainly era-specific. And there is some casual racism and misogyny that rings off key today. But while the details may have changed, the types remain accurate. Where the trend followers in the early 70s may have been motivated by apartheid, anti-establishment fomenters, pop music, youth culture, etc., today's analogues are energized by Gaza, life style businesses, pop music and youth cu ...more
Holly
bloody awful from start to finish. who needs another book about an old lecher clutching at the straws of his youth by dating women nearly forty years younger than him? characters were boring and narrative patchy. I don't care what Christopher Hitchens says.
Christian Schwoerke
I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book, having so enjoyed Lucky Jim (which I hold as the exemplar of the perfectly crafted novel, structurally and comically). While I found echoes of the same humor, the structure was less formally balanced, and it had a meandering quality, with an ending that contrived to brings several threads together into a single summative utterance. Additionally, the target of Amis' humor was vastly different. In Lucky Jim, his young-ish protagonist assaulted the stu ...more
Lynne
Thank you, Christopher Hitchens, for telling me that this was one of his best!
Ape
2007 bookcrossing journal:

This is a trip into early 70s southern middle class England. Our narrator is Douglas Yendall, a thirty something sophisticated man who reviews classical music and doesn't 'get' youth culture. In particular it follows his story with the Vandervane family. Head of the household - only in title though - Sir Roy Vandervane (big name in classical music circles) is having an affair with a 17 year old bratt, Sylvia. It's tearing his family life apart: his wife Kitty is falling
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Eric Cartier
An enjoyable comic novel that consists mostly of dialogue between the mediocre conductor/failed composer Roy Vandervane and his friend Doug Yandell, a snobbish classical music critic for a lowly London newspaper. There's drinking, sex on the side, traffic jams, music theory, early 1970's traditional vs. counterculture values battles, and a six-year old horrorshow spoiled child. Kingsley, like his son Martin, can condense a humorous situation into a single stylish line, or compound unfortunate oc ...more
Alexis
Apr 15, 2007 Alexis rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Posh Britannia fans. So not Mr. Hornby
I picked up Girl, 20 for free and with the notion that a literate English-speaking person should read at least something by at least one Amis. This colored my reading. The book cover's proclamation: "acidly funny, shamelessly entertaining" also prejudiced me. I expected it to make me laugh, or at least nod appreciatively.

I did not.

Possibly I do not understand 1970s British satire. The loss, no doubt, is mine.

Possibly I did not follow the musical threads of the novel, therefore missed the funny
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Kyle
'Lucky Jim' was far more knock-you-out enthralling, but 'Girl, 20' is far more nuanced. I stumbled over the first two chapters, though. Every once in a while you pick up a book and the first few pages seem unintelligible for no good reason.

As comic as this book is, there are many sobering moments that are frighteningly insightful. What seems like a romp ultimate turns out to a be a pretty profound novel about age and responsibility, free will and the affects of our choices on ourselves and loved
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Helen Wilkie
HATED IT. This book has aged horrendously (thank god) but I'm sure Amis is more racist, sexist, smug, vulgar and unfunny than his contemporaries. No idea why someone decided this deserves a space in Liverpool library's paltry eBook collection, it would be kinder just to let it die quietly. OK, and painfully.
Martha Hunter
Occasionally very funny, this book is a necessary read if you've ever questioned the product the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Factory pumps out about the sixties and seventies. Still, don't expect something fizzy, as I did. The ending is pretty bleak for what largely seemed like a sex farce.
Bert
Amis vs. the permissive society. For starters it was funny (there are some really good jokes, some good bad ones and some brilliant one-liners) but for a comic novel this is genuinely spiky, bitter, bleak (that ending!) and full of moral and intellectual disgust - sweet deal. Reading this all these decades later it does read like a kind of last stand for a certain ideology, Mr. Amis in his indictment of 60's youth culture, might come across as outdated and like a filthy snob, I'm guessing he was ...more
Mark
A clear-eyed send-up of hippies, peace, love and the swinging sixties. Youth culture is pole-axed, both the classical music and the rock'n'roll communities are skewered, and Amis takes deadly aim at Free-Loveniks, traditional marriage supporters and everyone in-between. This book might be depressing in its cynicism about human love if it weren't so deadly accurate and so funny so much of the time. The ending, which caught me by surprise, is harrowing and turns the comedy that precedes it quite a ...more
Casey
I feel conflicted over this book because I found the narrative to be entertaining yet the whole thing still felt very slow moving. I enjoyed it but it isn't one that's going to leave a memorable impact on me.
Larry
Hilariously vicious satire of a classic limousine liberal desperately chasing youth and making an absolute fool of himself.
Jasmine McAlpine
A concert violinist in twentieth century England decides to find a girl younger than him to escape the everyday realities of his family. Unfortunately, his plan doesn't pay off as well as he liked, and his family continues to reduce him. After several altercations, the violinist finally finds himself humiliated, abandoned, and immoral. However, he does develop the motivation to escape his circumstances. My favorite quality is the violinist's determination that he really is right and doesn't need ...more
Omar Khan
I read it because Hitchens (in his memoir Hitch-22) wrote that this was the Kingsley Amis' best work. I concur.
Ryan
OK, this is a classic. But you have to appreciate Amis' sense of humor to enjoy it. Some of it I found a little depressing, but I don't think the author was aiming for that. I think he just wants you to laugh at the pathetic characters.
Ralu Cercel
At times difficult to see a clear narrative line throughout the mayhem, but otherwise amusing in a British sort of way, and spot on on the clash of generations, refusal to move with the times and stubbornness to be ahead of the times.
Don Flynn
Social comedy from a true English master, about the state of relationships for an older gentleman in the early 70s in England. Amis' prose is always deft, his humor sly and understated, but sharp.
Matt
I like Kingsley Amis's fiction. His prose is first class. He tells wicked stories. But this one's not my fav, I'm afraid. It's a bit too existentialist 70's without enough plot payoff.
John Caulfield
Nice character development. 70's free love, free husbands and London nightlife. A few wayward and broken characters on the way.
Bob Primosch
Standard KA - agreeable and sometimes very funny.
Iniville
If you want know what it's like to be inside a man's head during a middle-aged crisis, here's your book.
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Goodreads Librari...: Alternate book cover 3 14 Aug 01, 2014 04:42AM  
NYRB Classics: Girl, 20, by Kingsley Amis 1 3 Oct 23, 2013 10:41AM  
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Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. He fathered the English novelist Martin Amis.

Kingsley Amis was born in Clapham, Wandsworth, Couty of London (now South London), England, the son of William Robert Am
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More about Kingsley Amis...
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“The real trouble with liars ... was that there could never be any guarantee against their occasionally telling the truth.” 0 likes
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