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The Diary of a Nobody ~ A Capsule Book Review

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The Diary of a Nobody ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Charlie Pooter is a middle-aged, middle-class Englishman living his proper English life in the 1880s. He has a wife named Carrie and two bosom friends named Mr. Gowing and Mr. Cummings. He also has an exasperating twenty-year-old son named Lupin Pooter. Charlie and his son Lupin almost always find themselves on opposite sides of any issue. Lupin is brash, irreverent, spontaneous and impulsive, all qualities his father deplores.

Charlie is a clerk in an accounting firm. He has an almost reverential respect for his company and for his boss, Mr. Perkupp. He believes that Mr. Perkupp is infallible in all things, almost god-like. He calls Mr. Perkupp his “principal” and his “superior.” We, the reader, see Mr. Perkupp as a company functionary and nothing more, completely unworthy of adoration.

In an attempt to document his thoroughly mundane and uneventful life, Charlie Pooter undertakes the writing of a diary. This diary is the odd little novel called The Diary of a Nobody by a writer named George Grossmith. (The book contains illustrations by Weedon Grossmith, brother of George.) We are told in the background information that George Grossmith was more of a musical performer and an actor than a writer, but he wrote this novel and it has endured for more than 130 years. I never heard of it until recently.

The novel is all diary entries and many of the entries deal with Charlie Pooter being bettered and outdone by his wife, his son, his friends, the servant, or just about anybody else he comes into contact with. Charlie means well, but he is feckless and not very bright. (When he’s leaving a room, trying to be dignified, he will more likely than not catch his foot on the edge of the rug and fall down.) His fondest hope in life is that Mr. Perkupp with take Lupin into his office. When this dream is realized, Lupin discovers right away that he is made for better things. He is never going to be happy with the kind of bowing-and-scraping, subservient life that is good enough for his father.

The Diary of a Nobody is a satire, breezy, light reading, fun to read and entertaining. It may be just the thing you’re looking for after you’ve finished War and Peace.

Copyright © 2020 by Allen Kopp