Nice Work

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Nice Work
First edition
Author David Lodge
Cover artist Paul Cox
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Campus novel, industrial novel
Publisher Secker & Warburg
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback, Paperback)
Pages 277 pp (hardcover)
ISBN 0-436-25667-3
OCLC 18778725
823/.914 20
LC Class PR6062.O36 N5 1988
Preceded by Small World: An Academic Romance

Nice Work (1988) is a novel by British author David Lodge. It won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award in 1988 and was also shortlisted for the Booker prize. In 1989 it was made into a four-part BBC television series directed by Christopher Menaul and starring Warren Clarke and Haydn Gwynne. The University of Birmingham served as the filming location of many of the scenes from this series.

Plot summary[edit]

The book describes encounters between Robyn Penrose, a feminist university teacher specialising in the industrial novel and women's writing, and Vic Wilcox, the manager of an engineering firm. The relationship that develops between the unlikely pair reveals the weaknesses in each character. Robyn's academic position is precarious because of budget cuts. Vic has to deal with industrial politics at his firm.

The plot is a pastiche of the industrial novel genre, particularly referencing North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This gentle ribbing acts to undermine the postmodern and feminist position of Robyn, who accepts the hand of fate despite ridiculing its role as the sole restorative capable (in the minds of authors of industrial novels) of elevating the female to a serious social position. Robyn acquires insight into the pragmatic ethos whose encroachment on university culture she resents and Vic learns to appreciate the symbolic or semiotic dimension of his environment and discovers a romanticism within himself that he had previously despised in his everyday life.

The story is set in the fictional city of Rummidge, a grey and dismal fictionalised Birmingham. It is part of the same series as the novels Changing Places, Small World, and Thinks ... (though strangely the latter makes reference to the "University of Birmingham" - suggesting that Birmingham is distinct from Rummidge even in the fictional world). In Nice Work, Philip Swallow is still head of the English Department from Small World and thus is Robyn Penrose's boss. Morris Zapp makes a cameo appearance in the last part of Nice Work, to add a plot twist where he tries to arrange for Robyn to have a job interview at his American university, Euphoric State (a fictionalized UC Berkeley), in order to stop his ex-wife from being a candidate for an open faculty position. Robyn Penrose makes a cameo appearance in Thinks ....


The BBC broadcast a TV miniseries based on the novel, which was the winner of the 1989 Royal Television Society award for best drama series.[1]


  1. ^ Cooke, Rachel (20 Apr 2008). "Nice Work". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 10 Jan 2015. 

External links[edit]