Grantchester Grind
A Porterhouse Chronicle
by Tom Sharpe
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Andre Deutsch
and Secker & Warburg: London, 1995

342 pages March 2004

  

Grantchester Grind by Tom Sharpe is subtitled A Porterhouse Chronicle; the novel is a follow-on, some years after, to Sharpe's great English university satire, Porterhouse Blue. I give away no critical surprises in this review. But the earlier novel really must be read before the sequel.

If you liked Porterhouse Blue, you'll enjoy Grantchester Grind. We're back on the grand old Cambridge campus of Porterhouse College with its five centuries of tradition. We meet again the inimitable Skullion and the Dean, the Senior Tutor and Praelector and Bursar and the Chaplain, and several other Porterhouse folk happily at the same old grind.
  

Grantchester Grind is not a mystery novel, although several of the main characters' motivations would work well in a murder mystery, and some others' in an international-crime farce. Even more than in Sharpe's Wilt series of novels, education comes under sustained fire. The assault of modern times and modern education, so-called, on Porterhouse and its traditions, which was hard-fought by the old guard in Porterhouse Blue, returns in new guise in the sequel. The Great War come again, as though the Jet-Set age is determined to bomb Porterhouse and all that it has stood for during five centuries of well-fed academia.

Just one small excerpt. Lawyers for Porterhouse are talking to the old Praelector of the College. The latter is tactful about their mutual business, and adroitly gives the lawyers a compliment that is at once relevant, naturalistic, and Darwinian. After the lawyers leave one of them considers,

He had been impressed by the story about the bears catching salmon in the swiftest-flowing rivers. The unspoken comparison had been a nice one. 'I don't think the Praelector and his ilk could possibly come into the category of a species that needs protecting,' he said. 'As you so rightly say, it has been a privilege to watch an old educated mind at work.'

Yes, the old education had a lot to recommend it. Mix the old education with Tom Sharpe's erudite wit, high and low humor in Porterhouse Blue and Grantchester Grind, and we have a hilarious commentary on modern times and modern education, so-called.

  

  
© 2004 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
R. W. Franson's review of
Porterhouse Blue
by Tom Sharpe
  

  
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