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Paradise Postponed [Paperback]

Sir John Mortimer , Christopher Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

June 1989 0582019834 978-0582019836
The "Longman Study Texts" are designed to cover a wide range of classics and modern writers and the full range of literary genres. They are geared to both examination and coursework requirements at GCSE level with many texts for A level study, and they aim to avoid examination short cuts such as plot summaries or potted character sketches. This text of "Paradise Postponed" is accompanied here by editorial introductions and notes and questions which aim to give GCSE and A level students the opportunity to explore the characters, ideas and situations within the book. A personal essay by the writer, who is the author of several novels and well known as a radio, television and stage dramatist, is included.

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From Publishers Weekly

Why does Simeon Simcox, "left-wing cleric" of an English village, leave the Simcox brewery millions to the morally loathsome Leslie "The Toad" Titmuss, city developer and Conservative cabinet minister? Simeon's sonsFred, the jazz-drumming doctor, and writer Henry, once "Britain's brightest and angriest"conduct separate sleuthing inquiries into Simeon's life and will. Was the low-born Titmuss, who has bought and sold his upper-crust associates and climbed to power on their crippled backs, really Simeon's offspring? Barrister, playwright, scriptwriter, novelist Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey brings his legal expertise and somber humor to this competently cobbled, though dogged, plot that takes in the upheavals of British society from the '40s to the '70s. Where the gentry once rode to hounds, the constabulary now rides against women camping on the heath to protest the Cruise missile. Despite some funny scenes of sitcom buffoonery, readers are apt to feel indifferent to the squads of characters that Mortimer parades forth, who are largely representatives of social forces, with little human blood in them. 25,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author of the Rumpole TV series focuses here on the life of Rector Simeon Simcox of Rapstone Fanner, an English village. The novel begins with Simcox on his deathbed, and the remainder is a series of flashbacks featuring the Simcox family, their friends, and Leslie Titmuss, a singleminded manipulator who climbs from poor boy to cabinet minister. The "mystery" of the novel is why Simcox, in his will, leaves all he owns to Titmuss. After much tediously contrived suspense, we learn that Titmuss is Simcox's illegitimate son. The writing is witty and the wordplay entertaining, but Mortimer has overextended a flimsy plot. Glenn O. Carey, English Dept., Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Mortimer's best non-Rumpole book June 19 2000
Format:Paperback
I'm biased: I think John Mortimer's Rumpole stories are so perfectly written that I've never thought his longer works quite measure up. This one comes the closest; in Paradise Postponed, Mortimer follows a disparate group of characters from the Second World War up through the late 1960s, using their stories to reflect developments in England during the same period. As you might expect from the creator of Rumpole, there's also an interesting mystery, but the real focus is on the relationships and dynamics between the characters, as Mortimer centers on a young man from a working class background who eventually becomes a powerful politician. Mortimer has an uncanny knack for creating characters who are believable, quirky individuals, and he makes us care about their struggles. The dialogue crackles, which one might expect since Mortimer was writing the TV adaptation of Paradise Postponed at the same time he was writing the novel. Paradise Postponed has had two sequels, which don't have quite the same scope either in terms of character development or time period covered.
What surprises me is that the TV adaptation of Paradise Postponed has never been released on video, at least in the U.S. There'd be a large market for it.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mortimer's best non-Rumpole book June 19 2000
By Frank Cunat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm biased: I think John Mortimer's Rumpole stories are so perfectly written that I've never thought his longer works quite measure up. This one comes the closest; in Paradise Postponed, Mortimer follows a disparate group of characters from the Second World War up through the late 1960s, using their stories to reflect developments in England during the same period. As you might expect from the creator of Rumpole, there's also an interesting mystery, but the real focus is on the relationships and dynamics between the characters, as Mortimer centers on a young man from a working class background who eventually becomes a powerful politician. Mortimer has an uncanny knack for creating characters who are believable, quirky individuals, and he makes us care about their struggles. The dialogue crackles, which one might expect since Mortimer was writing the TV adaptation of Paradise Postponed at the same time he was writing the novel. Paradise Postponed has had two sequels, which don't have quite the same scope either in terms of character development or time period covered.
What surprises me is that the TV adaptation of Paradise Postponed has never been released on video, at least in the U.S. There'd be a large market for it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT PARADISE? Oct. 27 2010
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
John Mortimer is brilliant, and there can be no two ways about that. He is a cynic and he is a wit, and talented enough for that to put him almost in the company of Swift. He was also a lawyer, there is usually a legal thread even in his non-Rumpole novels, and there is one here, the mysterious case of a clergyman's will which seems to have left his entire fortune to a very unexpected and unwelcome beneficiary.

I found the plot-line in this novel very good indeed. The main mystery is cleared up in a very unexpected way, all hints and suggestions really lead somewhere, and while I suppose I would have to call it contrived, it is clever enough to be convincing in its own way. It is clever in the sense of being complex, but also in the way that Mortimer keeps switching the time-focus between different eras. He takes us from the start of Attlee's Labour government in 1945 all the way to the reign of Margaret in the 80's. The story of the will would not by itself have required a 40-year elapse. What requires that is the introduction of Leslie Titmuss, depicted starting with his modest boyhood and ending, in this book, with his fictional presence in Thatcher's cabinet. It needs no great legal genius to perceive that he is going to be good for a few more books, and so, of course, it has turned out.

So there is a political angle too, and if you know your author you will have expected that. He was one kind of leftist, and a kind that I greatly like. He had a privileged background, and he was `anti' just by nature. He was a rationalist and he was a libertarian. He found the toffs with origins similar to his own to be absurd and repulsive, but he was no Orwell, no wholesale convert to some other side. The colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady are sisters under the skin, after all. It's a human skin, and it's humanity in general that is prone to being absurd.

The characterisation is largely drawn from a political slant, therefore. Mortimer is not pushing any party-political programme all the same. Just describe some Young Conservatives, I suppose, and further comment would be superfluous. However the reverend himself, whose strange-seeming will forms the core of the narrative, is depicted as a self-caricaturing lefty, while Mortimer is conspicuously restrained in anything that might be construed as hostility to Titmuss, whose views must have been in many respects antithetical to his own. Malcolm Muggeridge, in his latter days as a born-again Christian and reactionary, had an excellent description for a whole tranche of C of E clergymen of this period, with their `feeble-minded confusion of the Christian faith with better housing, shorter hours of work, the United Nations and opposition to apartheid.' These are the polar examples. The others - I found them brilliantly drawn and developed altogether.

However in Mortimer there is always a good deal of social commentary, with minor characters put there for the overall picture and not for themselves. In many ways this is the best thing in the book, and it comes mainly at the beginning. You can't tell me that the schoolmates of Fred and Henry at their fictitious public school in East Anglia are not drawn from life. Mortimer attended Harrow School (as did Churchill), and they used to tell them there that the wind from the Urals hit Harrow-on-the-Hill without encountering any intermediate obstruction. Mortimer borrows this piece of lore for his school here in the book, so I infer that the incidental personae who come and go in the first chapter or two are real, with only the names changed to protect the questionably innocent. In particular there was apparently one boy who had a premature 5-o'clock shadow and was a great masturbator. He features in just a sentence or two, is never heard of again, and one is left wondering whether his onanistic eminence was a matter of a record level of activity, or whether he needed both hands simultaneously for the job, or exactly what it was. Somebody still alive might still remember.

The style of writing is of course delightful, but I caught Mortimer recycling a sentence that I had heard him use on television at least once, to the effect that there is no pleasure worth denying oneself for the sake of a few years in a sunset home in Weston-super-Mare. Poor old Weston-super-Mare. It is 60 years since I was there last, but having been warned off in this way I am electing to manage my later years by attending a gymnasium and eating and drinking less. Advancing age makes the latter pleasures less attractive anyway, to me at least. The book also features an elderly doctor who is largely there for the purpose of saying witty things, rather like Lord whatsisname in A Picture of Dorian Gray. This is entirely welcome. The doctor belongs properly in the narrative, and I would only utter a mild remonstrance for the pageful of his bons mots that is only there because Mortimer could not fit them into the story.

Behind the upper-middle-class English flippancy there is also a darker side to all this, and mentioning the doctor above reminds me of that. To me, it is all a potent brew, and I recommend the book thoroughly. Sir John Mortimer left our society only recently, but not before he had used at least one of his books to sound a coded but powerful warning of the threats to liberty that were being enacted by the over-plausible and endlessly self-justifying Tony Blair. The libertarian mentality runs through Mortimer's output, the threats to liberty depend on the eternal vigilance that is trumpeted so often by some of the people who threaten liberty most and are trying to hijack the vocabulary to their own political cause. Mortimer is good for our mental health.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Look Back And Linger April 13 2009
By Daniel Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This novel is quite a lark in the reading of it. The dialogue, for which Mortimer has an uncanny ear, sparkles with wit, and the characters all come across as both believably quotidian and quirky. Mortimer also manages to deftly sketch the changes in English society between the war years and 1985 into the background of all these intertwined goings-on. What fun!

Oh yes, there's also the mystery of the will of Simeon Simcox, late pacifist, socialist vicar which bequeaths all to weaselly Conservative Cabinet MP Leslie Titmuss. The narrative is a bit rum on this point in that the said Simeon Simcox is actually alive throughout most of the novel as the story backtracks through time or rather hopscotches around it - more often than not from paragraph to paragraph, with no clear demarcation given - which takes a bit of getting used to, whilst also keeping the reader on his/her toes.

A very lively, satisfactory read indeed, except that one is still left pondering why exactly the Bertrand Russell reading, seemingly atheistical Simcox became a vicar in the first place. Oh well, it's just as well to have something on which to chew after one turns the last pages.

Mortimer is particularly deft in employing literary quotations to summarise entire sections of the book. The Kierkegaard quote summarising Part Three might well be employed to give the prospective reader an idea of the entire book's underlying theme and motif:

"Life must be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backwards."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing April 3 2013
By V. F. Coleman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Set in a time I know well - last century- with an intriguing plot and complex characters
I liked this book so much I immediately bought another by JM
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bequest June 23 2011
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
John Mortimer's 1985 hilarious long novel is not as well known outside of the UK as his Rumpole stories, but it fully deserves to be. Fittingly, Mortimer constructed this portrait of England during the forty years after the war as a mystery, which gives his satirical wanderings a real narrative drive because it's difficult to guess why, indeed, the "Red Rector of Rapstone," Simeon Simcox, leaves his fortune in his family brewery shares not to his two adult sons but rather to the loathsome Thatcherite Cabinet Minister Leslie Titmuss. The untangling of this mystery allows Mortimer to move back and forth in time between the sons unraveling the mystery and all that led before it: we see how the Simcoxes and the other inhabitants of the Rapstone Valley (including Titmuss himself, originally the son of a brewery worker brought up to the rectory to clear nettles from the garden) involve themselves in the changes wrought in England since the war, from the austerity of the Atlee government to the optimism of the Macmillan years to the austerities of the early 70s under Heath and finally to the smug saber-rattling of the Thatcher era.

The cast of characters is terrific (my favorite is the snobbish Lady Fanner, who cannot stand her clumsy and unhappy daughter Charlotte), and in the best of the English tradition of the comic novel of manners (exemplified by Austen, Oliphant, Trollope, Meredith, Forster, Waugh, and Angus Wilson), the characters are allowed multiple sides to them--even the odious Titmuss himself. There are great setpieces, several of which involve the gentle attempts of Simeon Simcox to please a child that go disastrously awry and which made me laugh out loud. I worried near the end of the novel that Mortimer's attempts to make this novel too much of an allegory for the inheritance of England would make it too programmatic by the end, but though perhaps his points about the Thatcher era are hammered home a little too insistently at times the whole thing comes off as a huge success.
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