Sample menu Vu De Monde
Moonlight Kiss Oysters w. Native Citrus
Macadamia Tofu w. Kelp & Caviar
Heirloom Tomatoes & Mirabelle plum
Western Australian Marron “Curry”
Lemon Verbena & Wood Sorrel
Lamb Rib – Lamb Tea
Lamb Saddle & Wild Garlic
Trolley of Australian Cheese
Cantaloupe & Green Ants
Chocolate Soufflé w. Billy Tea Ice-Cream
Saltbush “Caramello” Koala
When it comes dinner time you have many choices, you can go for the full-blown degustation menu (with matching wines of course) of Vue De Monde in Melbourne, or you can go for lighter fare, maybe a salad with some added protein. Then there is everything in between.
Similarly, when choosing your next novel to read, you can pick up ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ or the latest best seller.
Kingsley Amis’ ‘Ending Up’ I liken to a light salad, with five pieces of tofu for the protein intake, you know the thing, something quite bland, each piece almost indistinguishable from another, excepting the amount of chilli that managed to stick whilst it was in the frying pan.
Your light salad, the backdrop, is ageing, have a mouthful of general dismay of getting older and being abandoned, now a nibble on something a little more substantial, a character.
Your five pieces of tofu are each of the characters in this novella.
In summary ‘Ending Up’ is about five old people all living together in a dilapidated house, Tuppenny-hapenny Cottage. Let’s explore our tofu:
Adeala – Bernard’s sister, runs the household and does the shopping in town. Never married, explained as being too ugly, never had any real friends, excluding Marigold at school. Spends her time waiting on everybody and not complaining about it.
Marigold – speaks as though she is making baby talk with everybody, believes she is “above” all other people in the house, has grandchildren who come to visit, manipulates Adela, is starting to show first signs of amnesia (Alzheimer’s?)
George – bedridden after having a stroke before the novella begins, his sister had married Bernard. Can’t remember nouns so babbles
Bernard – homosexual ex-Army but had a marriage of convenience, rumoured to have a child that nobody has met, hates everyone in the house and plays nasty juvenile practical jokes on them (generally involving urine or laxatives), plays up the fact that he has a bad leg to get out of any household chore.
Shorty – Bernard’s ex-lover from the Army, does the odd jobs around the house and drinks a great deal, always putting on funny voices or signing songs
That’s it – a novella that details the interactions between this unlikeable bunch and the children and grandchildren that come to visit. Have another lettuce leaf (another bitter remark about getting old, or a reflection from one of the visitors “hope we don’t end up like that” kind of thing).
Here is a superficial farce that does the job of satiating your hunger, one that offends with its misogyny, homophobia, racism (more of that when I review another Kingsley Amis work in the coming days) and one that has little spine or oomph. No wood sorrel or rivermint kangaroo here.
I was going to compare this to a complex work, such as William Gaddis’ ‘The Recognitions’, a masterwork of many layers, a complex painting that becomes more radiant the more you look at it, with this book being a cheap water colour with a wash background (again ageing) but that would be crediting it with some level of art. Basically it is a bland salad, totally forgettable. How on earth did it make the 1974 Booker Prize Shortlist? Probably the same reason the 2019 award was jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood for ‘The Testaments’.