From post-war childhoods spent in the east end of London, through to perhaps unlikely success in later life in matters literary, Tubby and Lodge share an awful lot in common. I mention this biographical aspect purely because of the novel's startling finale. Did the author actually trek an old girlfriend through the dust and heat of northern Spain? Tantalising.
Therapy is a typical Lodgean work centring around that old chestnut - middle aged angst. Tubby Passmore is a successful sit-com writer with a large detached house in a swanky suburb of Rummidge (Solihull?), an equally ostentatious metropolitan crash pad and a marriage that is slowly but surely falling apart. Throw in obsessions with self-analysis and the Danish philosopher Kierkergaard and you have all the ingredients of a wrily observed mid-life car crash. Zeitgeist is the word.
Self-absorbed, neurotic and materialistic It's hard to sympathise too much with Tubby - at least to start with. He has a penchant for the good things in life and seems indifferent to the world around him. Only when his marriage breaks-up do we see a softer side to the man. Gradually, Tubby gains our sympathy.
At this juncture the novel switches from the first person narrative to various third person accounts - a typical Lodge trick. This crafty device allows the reader to bear witness to Tubby's increasngly erratic behaviour from an outsider's point of view. Thus the reader can share in the mutiple narrator's surprise and horror. Tubby is on the rampage. First hand accounts from Sally - Tubby's wife and her tennis coach are revealing and funny enough.
But it's the accounts of three female associates that take the biscuit as Tubby attempts, in the wake of his marriage break-up, to make up for what he calls 'lost time.' i.e. to sleep with as many women as possible. LA, Amsterdam and Tenerife are the locations where Tubby clumsily attempts to seduce three very bemused females. This is Lodge at his very best. Suffice to say the attempted seductions don't quite come off. It's all so awkward. It's also very, very funny.
The fnal part of the novel comes as somewhat of a revelation. The past they say is a different country. Following his disastrous conquests and with his life in pieces it's a place that Tubby desperately wants to re-enter. Suddenly there's a change in tone. It's almost as if Tubby is seeking some kind of redemption, has seen the error his ways.
Invigorated, liberated, he sets of to Spain, in search of his long lost love, Maureen - a girl he once snubbed in the long off days of post-war austerity. It's a chance for redemption. Thus a whole new facet of the novel begins. We are no longer in the present day surroundings of Tubby's familiar world of scripts and media types, but back in post-war Brickley as a story of innocent and unrequited love unfolds.
In the meantime Lodge writes a delicate story of one man's pursuit of a lost love. The novel ends on a tender note as the once young lovers, both now bearing the marks of life's many caprices reunite in the spanish heat. Can love ever be rekindled? Its a question left suitably dangling in the air.
In Therapy Professor Lodge has created a novel that has the power to make the reader laugh and cry in equal measures. At times it may even make you cringe. As an examination of mid-life despair, angst and regret it hits all the right notes.
In a world stuffed full of fakes and charlatans this is one form of therapy that is certain to do wonders for you.