Mr Micawber Down Under

Written by David Barry
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

A brilliant, fast, enjoyable read, this shows the ever optimistic Wilkins Micawber and family under hard times in Australia, in the Melbourne mud of 1855. Narrated in a lofty pseudo-intellectual tone to match Micawber’s own speech, and showing many dramatic twists and turns, this is a most enjoyable book as our hero wriggles against his landlord’s demands.

‘Something is sure to turn up,’ he repeats as his son goes off to be an actor. There are probably too many characters on the scene at this stage, in any case. But to replace Young Wilkins we have a bright young Irishman who causes both family and money trouble when Micawber’s daughter falls for him and she is already engaged to the rich but thick landlord’s son.

During the progress of the book our Mr Micawber and family consume more bottles of port than they can afford as, with the slightest hint of luck, he is off down to the off-licence.

Micawber and his wife face a dilemma. Something has surely turned up, and it’s not what he expected. In order to earn a bob or two, Micawber turns detective, and by a startling coincidence, this leads him straight back home. How Mr and Mrs Wilkins Micawber wriggle out of their problem brings the book to its conclusion, but it could well do with a stronger and more dramatic ending.

Well constructed, but barely long enough, this Hale volume shows brilliant characterisation by its actor writer who has appeared in many British TV shows over the past 40 years.