Two young boys from Protestant England are deposited on scholarship at a mostly day Catholic school in Bradcaster on the eve of World Water II. Roper, irreverent in his search for a unified theory of creation, is matched by the socially mature Hillier, in a challenge of Catholic orthodoxy at the school. The first chapter of Anthony Burgess’, parody of spy novels, is unfortunately the best. Roper, to the displeasure of Father Beauchamp, challenges God and breaks down the Eucharist into its molecular structure.
Unfortunately the War intervenes. Hillier making use of his Slavonic language skills joins her Majesty’s intelligence service. Roper is sent off to Germany to fight and develops an affinity for all things teutonic. Reflecting Russian infiltration of England’s spy network, Hillier ultimately defects to Russia during the Cold War. It is up to Hillier, in his last assignment before retirement, to return Roper to England.
The parody is more of Ian Fleming spy novels, then of Le Carre. Written in 1966, the novel feels a bit dated. As one reviewer noted, in writing a satire, Burgess wrote a mediocre spy novel. After the first chapter the humor is flat, and as a satire, there is no suspense.
Read the first chapter for a laugh, then find another book to read.