La Chute du British Museum

by David Lodge

Other, 1991



Call number




Rivages (1991), 242 pages


Penguin Decades bring you the novels that helped shape modern Britain. When they were published, some were bestsellers, some were considered scandalous, and others were simply misunderstood. All represent their time and helped define their generation, while today each is considered a landmark work of storytelling. David Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down was published in 1965 and is a brilliant comic satire of academia, religion and human entanglements. It tells the story of hapless, scooter-riding young research student Adam Appleby, who is trying to write his thesis but is constantly distracted - not least by the fact that, as Catholics in the 1960s, he and his wife must rely on 'Vatican roulette' to avoid a fourth child.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wrichard
Funny book about the absurdities of Roman Catholic teaching and satire on the chesterbelloc style (at their worst)
LibraryThing member leowillemse
This very funny book, written in 1962, gives a summing up of a life of a man caught up between work, love,catholic religion t the end of the Fifties.But -I read the book somewhere in the 90's, still not out of time!
LibraryThing member mmhubbell
(from reading game)
What a silly book! It was at times fun and funny -- a raucous, farcical British.. romp.. thru a day in the life of 26 y.o. literary graduate student, Adam Appleby, father of three, with a possible 4th on the way. At other times it was tedious, redundant, longwinded and old hat. Of course it was written in, I believe, 1965 so maybe the theme of the Catholic Church vs. birth control was a fresher subject. Maybe the old "publish or perish" theme was fresher then too? Basically, Adam must -- finally -- publish his doctorate (appropriately enough on "The Long Sentance in English Literature") in order to secure a university post, and some badly needed income to support his young and growing family, but everything -- from his parrish Father (riding on the back of Adam's breaking down scooter while loudly argueing about contraception) to an American millionaire, to beautiful and insistently seductive young woman who lives above a kitchen full of Argentinian butchers! -- all this and more conspire against poor Adam. Like I said, it's very silly! But it was a short and fast read -- and fulfilled the obligation of my 12th book and 3rd recommended book!

I don't know if perhaps this was one of Lodge's earlier books.. maybe he (and his characters) have improved with age?

A fun quick read, especially for Anglophiles!
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LibraryThing member emmakendon
Set in one day, 26 year-old literary graduate student, Adam Appleby, father of three, with a possible 4th on the way, is trying to finish his thesis, studying at the British Museum Reading Room. The theme is the practising Catholic wrestling with the realities of life, sex in marriage and the Safe Method in place of modern contraception (i.e. the Pill which is only just coming in).

It's comical, and a quick holiday read. At a more interesting level, for those who can identify the references, it alludes to and pastiches a number of 20th century writers including Woolf, Hemingway and Greene. Adam's thesis has been honed down by his supervisor to what seems an odd subject: the long sentence in English literature. By the end of the novel, where he employs Joyce's unpunctuated stream of consciousness from Molly Bloom at the end of Ulysses, even the uninitiated can enjoy the irony where Adam is missing the very thing he needs for his thesis, as he misses almost everything else he needs in this one day.
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LibraryThing member isabelx
They had embarked on marriage with vague notions about the Safe Period and a hopeful trust in Providence that Adam now found difficult to credit. Clare had been born nine months after the wedding. Barbara had then consulted a Catholic doctor who gave her a simple mathematical formula for calculating the Safe Period - so simple that Dominic was born one year after Clare. Shortly afterwards Adam had been released from the army, and returned to London to do research. Someone gave Barbara a booklet explaining how she could determine the time of her ovulation by recording her temperature each morning, and they followed this procedure until Barbara became pregnant again.

A comic novel set at the time of the second Vatican Council, when Britain's Catholics were desperately hoping that the Church would change its stance against Birth Control. Adam Appleby, a post-graduate English student, spends his days researching his thesis in the British Museum Reading Room and worrying about the possibility that his wife is pregnant again. One of the most amusing parts was Adam day-dreaming about being elected Pope himself and changing the rules to the annoyance of the Cardinals.

According to the Author's Afterword very few of the original reviewers noticed the passages parodying ten famous authors, which makes me feel better about not realising either!… (more)
LibraryThing member harveybiggins
Short but entertaining and well written novella by Lodge. One of his earliest works, it is structured as a literary pastiche of different authors- each chapter (following the somewhat disastrous efforts of the main character to finish researching his thesis, and secure employment at the university, to support his ever growing family, and the concerns at whether the catholic approved birth control methods have led to another accident) written in the style of a different author.… (more)
LibraryThing member sonofcarc
A blow to my ego, since I didn't spot that this was a series of parodies till I got to the Henry James chapter. And even with a list of the authors, I'm still not sure which they all are.
LibraryThing member lukespapa
The British Museum is Falling Down: a quick read, delightful, though a bit dated, that humorously considers one day in the emotional rollercoaster life of an aspiring academician as he contemplates the possibility that his wife is yet again pregnant. Adam and Barbara Appleby, devout Catholics, can ill-afford another child and are flummoxed and frustrated by the Rhythm Method in the days before the pill and reform. Through all the humor that devolves to slapstick comedy, the essential consideration of the story is the regulation of sex within a marriage and the sometimes unintended consequences of such imposed restraint.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date

1981 (Secker & Warburg)
1965 (MacGibbon & Kee)

Physical description

242 p.; 8.66 inches


2869305044 / 9782869305045

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