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A panoramic novel that stretches from 1912 to 1967 No Laughing Matter is perhaps Angus Wilson’s most autobiographical novel.
The novel chronicles the end of the bourgeois way of life as seen through the lives of the six Matthews children and their dysfuntional middle-class family. Their parents – Billy Pop and the Countess – are objects of ridicule to their children who vow never to make their mistakes.
Quentin, the eldest, is a socialist who adores women. His fervent views, however, become distilled over the years until he transforms into a cynical TV pundit. Gladys, plump and amenable, is unlucky in love and eventually falls for the charms of a crook. Rupert, the handsome actor, has a successful career until he fails to adapt to the changing theatre. Margaret is a brilliant and highly acclaimed novelist but she becomes bitter as her twin Sukey sinks into domestic bliss, while Marcus, the baby of the family, believes that his career is his life.
An ambitious and enriching novel No Laughing Matter is an extraordinary work in its depictions of complex family relationships, where it is just as easy to hate as to love and where everyone struggles to be an individual.
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