Books: Romance, Of Course, Blooms

NICE WORK by David Lodge; Viking; 277 pages; $18.95

If English movies of the '80s had a team like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, David Lodge's funny, adroit Nice Work would make an ideal vehicle for them. The novel's protagonist, Vic Wilcox, is a gruff but keen-witted exec struggling to turn around a laggard steel-parts factory in Rummidge -- "an imaginary city," the author informs us, "which occupies, for the purposes of fiction, the space where Birmingham is to be found on maps of the so-called real world." Vic's antagonist (and here the term is literal) is Robyn Penrose, an attractive,...

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