Reading – Lucky Jim (1957)

Lucky Jim (1957) | Reading

The film of Amis’s novel, published the year after the coronation of Elizabeth II , was partly shot in Reading, Berkshire which at the end of her reign became the Western terminus of the “Elizabeth” Crossrail line. Jim (Ian Carmichael) gets on a train at Cowley station, formerly an intermediate station on the line running between West Drayton and Uxbridge Vine, which is now on the route of the “Liz”.

Crossrail promised to link the Midlands to Europe, making them no longer the parochial backwater that Amis sends up in his book. After Brexit, the whole of England has made itself a backwater, a simulacrum of an imagined 1950s, an England that never existed. ‘Lucky Jim’ had a role in the increasing openness about sex and disillusionment with post-War conformity in the Fifties.

Now Reading in the West (which voted 58% to Remain in the EU) is linked to Brentwood in the East (which voted 59.2% to Leave) but if you want to go to Paris from either, you’ll have a long wait at Customs at St Pancras. Crossrail, putting the ‘Great’ back into ‘Great Britain’.

Reviewing the novel, W. Somerset Maugham said “the young men he [Amis] so brilliantly describes truly represent the class with which his novel is concerned….They have no manners, and are woefully unable to deal with any social predicament. Their idea of a celebration is to go to a public bar and drink six beers. They are mean, malicious and envious….They are scum.”