Kingsley Amis, along with being the funniest English writer of his generation was a great chronicler of the fads and absurdities of his age, and Girl, 20 is a delightfully incisive dissection of the flower-power phase of the 1960s. Amis’s antihero, Sir Roy Vandervane, a conductor and composer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Leonard Bernstein, is a pillar of the establishment whohas fallen hard for protest, bellbottoms, and the electric guitar. And since vain Sir Vandervane is a great success, he is also free to pursue his greatest failing: a taste for younger and younger women. Highborn hippie Sylvia (not, in fact, twenty) is his latest infatuation and a threat to his whole family, from his drama-queen wife, Kitty, to Penny, his long-suffering daughter.
All this is recounted by Douglas Yandell, a music critic with his own love problems, who finds that he too has a part in this story of botched artistry, bumbling celebrity, and scheming family, in a time that for all its high-minded talk is as low and dishonest as any other.