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Nice Work

(The Campus Trilogy #3)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,714 ratings  ·  227 reviews
When Vic Wilcox, MD of Pringle's engineering works, meets English lecturer Dr Robyn Penrose, sparks fly as their lifestyles and ideologies collide head on. But, in time, both parties make some surprising discoveries about each other's worlds - and about themselves.
Paperback, 277 pages
Published July 27th 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1988)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  4,714 ratings  ·  227 reviews

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In this witty novel, Lodge engineers a confrontation between Robyn, a young, left-wing female literary theorist, and Vic, an older, conservative, senior manager type. There's a government initiative where Robyn is supposed to "shadow" Vic one day a week, an arrangement that initially neither of them can stand. Each of them thinks the other's world is absurd and pointless. I liked the book partly because I have also spent my professional life flitting between industry and academia. I can absolute ...more
In Nice Work David Lodge introduces the campus novel to the 19th century industrial novel.

The excuse for this unnatural pairing is a work exchange scheme and true to the late 1980s setting the basic assumption is the Lecturer from a thinly disguised Birmingham University English department has plenty to learn from industry, while the opposite, not not never, could be so. Lust, however, intervenes to shake up all the best laid plans of mice and men...

Background splashes of colour from the indust
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Rating: one disgusted star of five

The Publisher Says: Vic Wilcox, a self-made man and managing director of an engineering firm. has little regard for academics, and even less for feminists. So when Robyn Penrose, a trendy leftist teacher, is assigned to "shadow" Vic under a goverment program created to foster mutual understanding between town and gown, the hilarious collusion of lifestyles and ideologies that ensues seems unlikely to foster anything besides mutual antipathy. But in the course of
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Don't take my four stars as a wide endorsement -- I recognize that not everyone would enjoy this as much as I did (especially with the tiny print -- I really am getting old). But I'll tell you about the book, and about why I appreciated it.

I've now read a few novels which would fall into a category I recently discovered -- a "novel of ideas." My sense of these novels is that plot, and certainly characterization, unfortunately tend to be secondary to setting up debates between characters represen
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The last in what is loosely termed "The Campus Trilogy" by David Lodge. The books are only distantly linked, it's nice to read them in order but not strictly necessary, and each can stand on it's own two feet, I believe.

This time we follow two very different characters. Robyn is an idealist: a feminist professor of literature, in a non-relationship with her long-time partner, Charles. Vic is a man's man: a managing director of a factory, macho, hard-working, a laborer who has money because he's
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, as its been said by many, is a brilliant piece of social commentary. What is less often said is that it follows in the tradition of many a great title - Mrs Gaskell's Mary Barton and North and South, , Forster's Howards End, Charlotte Bronte's Shirley and Dicken's Hard Times to name a few - as a "Condition of England Novel" (you can read more on that here: The titles I mention are studied by Robyn Penrose in novel, herself an expert in the Co ...more
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Smart book. Very clever. Lots of moments of, 'ooooooh, I see what you did there!' Wildly feminist professor meets traditionalist industrial business man via crazy shadow scheme in time of state budget cuts and overall economic downturn. Riddled with literary references and social critique focused on academic life, industry, and business practices it also includes clever commentary on gender roles and family dynamics.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic-work
Funny, moving and, in the long run, feel good. Vic Wilcox a workaholic managing director of a small engineering firm who is opinionated, dismissive and seeking to be upwardly mobile for the sake of his wife ends up sharing his Wednesdays with a ' shadow' from the local University on a project to get business and university inter-relating. (A tad prophetic Mr Lodge). The shadow in question is a self-opinionated, elitist snob called Robyn Penrose who specializes in English literature but especiall ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
The cap to David Lodge's Campus Trilogy is neither as neat nor as funny as its predecessors, but Nice Work is not without its enticements. The melding of the Rummidge University with its grey industrial heart is a firm idea, and Lodge handles matters of class differences astutely.

The two lead characters are sympathetic in their own separate ways and are justifiably drawn together, and Lodge foreshadows their conclusions without being obnoxious about it. Probably the most interesting point that
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book changed the way I thought about people in industry vs. academia. Definitely worth a read. Plus it's really funny.
Jacquelynn Luben
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read Nice Work before, a long time ago, but I still found that the humour tickled me on the first couple of pages: the wife’s bedside reading – Enjoy your Menopause – and her pride in her en suite are two gems. I loved the fact that one of the loos was avocado – a joke that was possibly lost on me, twenty years ago.

Nice Work is an intelligently written novel, the conflict between the two main protagonists being a sort of representation of right and left politics of the UK. But Robyn and Vic do
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Reading this book reminded me of studying French Literature in college in the mid 1980s. The literary theory reminds me of those courses -- particularly deconstructing modern poetry and reading 19th century French novels. The descriptions of the manufacturing plant and Vic's behavior remind me of my chemical engineering classes -- I remember researching something for a project in mining journals and finding every volume full of advertisements for machinery featuring large rocks with scantily cla ...more
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I started to read this book rather accidentally. I found it in one of my university departments and having read the back cover, I didn't expect much from the book, but I gave it a try. And it was absolutely worth it.
The story revolves around two completely different people, who at first don't enjoy each other's company, but as the story unfolds they get along quite well and realize that they have much to learn from each other.
There is not much action in this novel. Lodge concentrates on descri
John Pappas
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
My favorite of the "campus trilogy." Vic and Robyn, quasi-stereotypical as they are, are alive in their conflicting ideologies and clashing differences, and this novel, vaguely modeled after English social novels of the 19th century, poses some interesting, if simplistic, questions about the relationship between academia and industry. G.B. Shaw does something similar better in Heartbreak House, but no mind - this is the most fully realized of Lodge's Campus novels in that it doesn't rest fully i ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Very loosely based on E.M. Forster's Howards End, Nice Work follows Vic Wilcox, a head honcho in a British factory, and Robyn Penrose, a feminist PhD trying to secure a job at a university. Lodge does a really nice job of developing the characters and allowing them to change as a result of their interactions. He also manages to bring the novel to a satisfying and believable conclusion after leaving me wondering for most of the book where the story would end up. Overall, a book worth reading.
Little Butterfly
3,5 stars

A witty and humorous book with credible characters. I liked the thoughts on the value of work and the idea of the shadow scheme. Impressive points on the stockmarket, swaps and the like.
The negative side of the book was that after a good start it took too long to get into gear.
It's a solid book that demands patience.
I found this novel to be less academic in its overall thrust than "Changing Places", though the place of academia and academics in society played a large part of the story. The sexual humor of both books struck me as more towards the 'Benny Hill' end of the spectrum than my tastes lie - I think that is one major reason that these are 3 star books for me rather than 4. I really enjoyed this look at 1980s English universities under the budget cuts of Margaret Thatcher & the parallel look at th ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was the Campus Trilogy that hooked me on David Lodge and Nice work is the third selection. The earlier books contrasted American and British college life as experienced in the early 1970's. Lodge built his humor on the vast difference between California College life and Industrial town college life in England. In the Second Book, Small World, this contrast has dimmed in favor of the life of a "Road Scholar"; that is that portion of the international professorial elite that work the academic c ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
"I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed".
- Robert Louis Stevenson - My Shadow.

"O'er grassy dale, and lowland scene
Come see, come hear, the English Scheme.
The lower-class, want brass, bad chests, scrounge fags.
The clever ones tend to emigrate"
- The Fall - English Scheme.

"Shadowing: that which follows or attends a person or
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this because I really liked Small World and because I found it in the office collection of a Shakespearean scholar at my university who retired and then passed away. The administration staff invited us to take all of the books we fancied. He underlined things in this book and noted its realism. I love this. Though written in 1988 (the year I graduated from high school) it feels historical (that doesn't seem that long ago) because of the specifics he gives about the effects of Thatcherism ...more
John Lucy
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the third book of Lodge's Campus Trilogy. As I've said in my review of the second book, "Small World," the label of "trilogy" is more or less a misnomer. The three books do contain Morris Zapp and Philip Swallow in each and do reflect a passing of time during which those characters' stories have progressed, but other than that the three novels have little to do with one another. "Nice Work" focuses on the young career of Robyn, a Rummidge literature professor, and Vic Wilcox, a managing ...more
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think of the three books in this loosely connected trilogy (Changing Places, Small World, and Nice Work), I enjoyed this one the most, I think because it concerned itself with more than the academic world (with which I have had too much connection), and showing some interesting contrasts between it and the business world (about which I have almost no connection at all). Strangely though, I have marked no passages that particularly caught my eye, although I do remember very much enjoying the va ...more
Elizzy B
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like literary theory and you have the open-mind to understand there's a world outside of the college, you will like this book. I really like this retold or homage to Industrial Novel, and particulary to North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. But don't be confused, this not a love story, as it is well said at the beginning. And that's a pity :(
Robyn and Vic are two different worlds. She is a left feminist working for the University and he's an Engineer who works as general manager at a big
Peter Lech
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Having read now entire the Campus Trilogy I found this last installment to be the most compelling in terms of characterization and themes. At times I felt like I was reading the script for a British television mini-series: there is something sentimental, melodramatic, predictable about the way the two main characters' relationship is portrayed. Nevertheless, a novel worth reading, for its apercus on academic life, forward-driving plot, and fascinating depiction of the clash between two worlds: a ...more
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Bringing the mutually contradictory worlds of industry and academia together via a goverment plan to have a college Prof (or instructor) "shadow" a head-of-industry, Lodge paints a riotous potrait that knocks heads and then cracks them. The trendy left-wing, feminist seniotic intellectual influences the staunchly realist-minded industrialist in a far mor straight-minded way. In truth however, each refocuses the others vie of his own little corner of the world and of the universe.

Lodge is a brill
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An intelligent and comedic blend of critical theory, scandal, humor and insightfulness, Nice Work reminds me -- in the midst of a whirlwind semester -- why I love to read. The connection of Lodge's two binaries, practical industry-man Vic and theoretical feminist Robyn, is inspirational and their discourse evokes an all-encompassing vision of Thatcher Era England. Though it explores and discusses the difficulty of maintaining a public higher-education system in the contemporary economy at great ...more
Kathryn  Bullen
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Amusing novel - some intriguing insights into character whilst comparing two worlds - the world of bleak industrialism (engineering and commerce) and the world of university (more particularly in the English department) - both worlds suffering cut-backs and needing to move into new ways of working to make ends meet. It's a book about relationships and change - the shadowing system works in that both main characters change their perceptions after spending time in each other's worlds. A quick delv ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am surprised at all these high ratings. Some clever moments here and there, but mostly it reads like a grandpa’s diary of (mild) erotic fantasies.
Ayelet Waldman
Good lord this man is the most incredible writer.
Vishal Choradiya
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I stayed with David Lodge's loosely-connected campus trilogy till the end, not missing its strongest and most substantial instalment, "Nice Work". Set in late-1980s Thatcherite England, amidst shutdowns, funding cuts, and layoffs, this social novel is a delightful portrayal of the contrasting values/ beliefs of industry (financial profit, free markets, objectivity, utilitarianism) and literary studies (intellectual freedom, liberal humanism, social construction of meaning, justice), emb ...more
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Nice work 1 8 Mar 07, 2014 08:46AM  

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Professor David Lodge is a graduate and Honorary Fellow of University College London. He is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where he taught from 1960 until 1987, when he retired to write full-time.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, was Chairman of the Judges for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989, and is the author of numerous works of li

Other books in the series

The Campus Trilogy (3 books)
  • Changing Places
  • Small World