The Throwback (novel)

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First edition
(publ. Secker & Warburg) TheThrowback.jpg
First edition
(publ. Secker & Warburg)

The Throwback is a 1978 satirical novel by Tom Sharpe.

Contents

It has been released as a recorded book in two formats: in an abridged version by HarperCollins Audio read by Simon Callow ( ISBN   0001050761) and unabridged by ISIS Audio Books read by Geoffrey Matthews ( ISBN   185695692X)

Plot

The plot is based around the ancient Flawse family, landed gentry based at the falling-down Flawse Hall, (near "Flawse Fell") in the wilds of Northumberland, just south of the Anglo-Scottish border. The single remaining family member is a cantankerous octonegarian named Edwin Tyndale Flawse. His illegitimate grandson Lockhart (aka "the Bastard") combines sexual and educational innocence with an alarming propensity for violence when he or his wife is threatened. The old man was born in the late 19th century, and his main aim in the very autumn years of his life is to find the father of his bastard grandchild and flog him to within an inch of his life.

The plot involves the pair making a double marriage while on a cruise, Edwin to the grasping middle-aged Mrs. Sandicott (who desires to marry a very rich old man with as short a lifespan remaining as possible) and Lockhart to her innocent and beautiful daughter Jessica (who knows as little of real life as he does and wants nothing more than a stereotypical male hero).

One plot strand has the older couple moving to Flawse Hall; the pair immediately begin fighting as she realises that the old man has no immediate intention of dying and that Flawse Hall is not the aristocratic seat she imagined. The house has no electricity or modern appliances, and is located miles from the nearest town of Black Pockrington and the nearest railway station of Hexham, and thanks to a clause in her new husband's will which states that although she will inherit everything after he dies, she can never leave or else she'll forfeit the entire estate. The other strand has Lockhart and Jessica moving to Sandicott Crescent in the south London suburb of Purley and fighting an innocents' battle together against the modern world. Lockhart is not at home in his new suburban environment and subsequently loses his job in his mother-in-law's accountancy firm (courtesy of and in retaliation by his mother-in-law when Edwin's will includes another clause stating that if Lockhart ever finds his natural father the entire Flawse estate and inheritance immediately reverts to him) and longs for home. Unable to get another job since he doesn't statistically exist (thanks to his grandfather's refusal to register him with a birth certificate or with the National Health Service), Lockhart embarks on a prolonged, complicated, merciless and ultimately successful campaign to evict the tenants of the houses owned by Jessica so that they can be sold.

The finale has the two strands reunited back in Northumberland and involves the inevitable discovery that the spirit of the Flawse family lives on in "the Bastard" but is spiced up by several deaths, the inclusion of a human taxidermist, extensive use of sound equipment and a vicious battle with the taxmen and "the excise men" (Her Majesty's Customs and Excise Department).

Style

The plot and comedy in the book is typical of Tom Sharpe's writing. The author carefully creates characters and situations such that when the inevitable set-piece is played out, absolute chaos ensues. Lockhart could be said to fit easily alongside the other bizarre central characters in the Sharpe pantheon: classics such as Henry Wilt, Konstabel Els, Skullion, Peregrine Clyde-Brown and Blott.

Additionally, the novel is typical in its use of the tension between exterior social decency and underlying sexual desires and perversions to great comedic effect.

For example, Lockhart, having married the innocent young Jessica, and moving to a suburban crescent of large houses (which she owns but cannot sell due to sitting tenancies), decides that the only way to get rid of the neighbouring tenants is to create absolute mayhem in the neighbourhood. His methods include causing marital misunderstandings, drugging dogs, reversing the flow of sewage, sending sexual toys to old spinsters and adding abrasive chemicals to the inside of a condom. This in turn induces scenes such as the desperate cheese-grating of male genitalia, a full-scale battle between the police and the army, and a high-speed train crash.

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