Burgess’ true masterpiece is a kaleidoscopic history of the 20th Century in all its tawdry glory, told through the character of Toomey, a famous novelist of dubious abilities who is not above pandering to the public taste. African independence struggles, an unpleasant experience with sailors in Marseille and any number of young male lovers, along with Vatican politics, a Manson-esque religious cult and the tricky business of writing libretti for musicals: the details add up to a whole immensely funny and sad, Toomey’s failings and minor successes deeply human.


Dan Eltringham