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Jonathan Coe

Author of What a Carve Up!

35+ Works 12,325 Members 372 Reviews 74 Favorited

About the Author

Jonathan Coe is one of Britain's finest contemporary writers


Works by Jonathan Coe

What a Carve Up! (1994) 2,341 copies
The Rotters' Club (2001) 2,069 copies
The House of Sleep (1997) 1,588 copies
The Closed Circle (2004) 1,161 copies
The Rain Before it Falls (2007) 1,079 copies
Middle England (2018) 656 copies
Expo 58 (2013) 386 copies
The Dwarves of Death (1990) 371 copies
Number 11 (2015) 349 copies
A Touch of Love (1989) 307 copies
The Accidental Woman (1987) 298 copies
Mr Wilder and Me (2020) 243 copies
Bournville (2022) 230 copies

Associated Works

A Heart So White (1992) — Introduction, some editions — 1,971 copies
The Unfortunates (1969) — Introduction, some editions — 409 copies
Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame (2003) — Contributor — 280 copies
First Folio: A Little Book of Folio Forewords (2008) — Contributor — 180 copies
Ox-Tales: Earth (2009) — Contributor — 86 copies


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Common Knowledge



This was the next book on my shelf and it was only when I reached the end that I realised there was a second part to the story. I won't be rushing out to buy "[The Closed Circle]"; the second part, but I would be happy to pick it up if I saw it in a library. The story starts well and enigmatically with a man and a woman meeting in Berlin in 2003. They realise that they know people from each others families and are eager to work out the connection. Sophie offers to take Patrick on a ride down memory lane starting in the early 1970's when people that they had known were in secondary school. The story is fragmented and some gaps need to be filled by articles in the press, but a cohesive story is none the less told. The school is a private school in Birmingham which also admits children by scholarship. This area of the city is dominated by British Leyland the car manufacturers and the interlinked families are represented by a man in middle management and a shop steward at the works. It is at a time when tentative steps were being taken for some rapprochement between managers and union representatives, but Thatcher was just around the corner, which would put a stop to all that. The story follows the children of the two men as they make their way through school into early adulthood.

Many people are shaped by their environment and when there are clashes in cultures, people have to ride these out in accordance with their characters, perhaps none more so than at work and at school. Coe does a good job in relating his characters to the context of the times that they lived through. This was especially fascinating for me as I grew up in London only a few years older than the people in the book and so I could easily relate to the politics and culture of the time. Coe is particularly strong on music (pop culture) which grabbed many people of that era, but his two major themes are racism and the battle between capital and labour, both of which have left England in the sorry state that it finds itself today (in my opinion). Coe never loses sight of the culture, but I think he does lose sight of his characters. The further I read through the novel the less I cared about what happened to the Trotters and the Chases. Other aspects of his writing did not particularly appeal, for example the record reviews or snapshots from the school magazines, and although they at times made me laugh out loud; I thought they got in the way of the story, slowed the narrative flow for no particular reason: my attention wandered.

I was entertained for the most part and I appreciated the placing of the story in Birmingham; a city that seems to have been overlooked by many authors: 3.5 stars from me.
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baswood | 39 other reviews | May 12, 2024 |
Really rather good, although what was satire 30 years ago is now sometimes obscure and most of the time just depressing, as we reflect on the decades of increasingly deliberate destruction of what was once society.

I prefer to read authors from their earliest novels onward, but I think with Coe I will now jump to his more recent material, as I think his satire might entertain me more when more relevant to my own era.
therebelprince | 53 other reviews | Apr 21, 2024 |
A 'state of the nation' novel which I had mixed feelings about reading. Having spent much of the last three years campaigning fiercely against Brexit, I was quite anxious about what feelings would be thrown up for me in reading a book whose central character is in many ways ... Brexit.

However, I was glad to meet Rotters Club characters from previous books, as well as meet new ones. As ever, the characters are well-developed and credible Apart from Neil, the Tory staffer. I think all political parties (even the Tories ...) are able to pick intelligent, thoughtful people to fill their posts.

I found this overview of Middle England to be a persuasive summing up of many of the central themes - class, immigration, insecure employment, the death of traditional industries.

A timely book which will, I hope stand the test of time without becoming dated.
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Margaret09 | 26 other reviews | Apr 15, 2024 |
Here is a state-of-the-nation novel, a family saga centring on the matriarch of the family, Mary, whom we meet as a child celebrating VE day and drop in on over the years until her death - alone - from an aneurism during the Covid pandemic. Her close relations - and other characters too - drop in and out of this novel. They have some of them been in recent novels of his, and may appear in future work. Bournville, home of Cadbury's chocolate factory, a former Quaker village, and now a pleasant residential area is the focus of family life. Martin, one of her three sons works there, and represents British chocolate interests when the EU declines to recognise the British product as chocolate. Links with Europe and specifically Germany pop up throughout the novel, starting with Mary witnessing, on VE Day, a local thug attacking an elderly German man who has lived in England for decades. We witness Mary's husband Geoffrey's racism and anti-foreigner views, and how they colour the politics of his eldest son Jake. We see how Mary becomes more open as the years pass, especially since Geoffrey dies, and accepts her third son's homosexuality. So many themes, so many threads.

As someone whose politics are so closely aligned with Coe's own, it's easy to like this book. Nevertheless, I found his treatment of the historical events that underpin this novel - the 1966 World Cup, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, Charles and Diana's wedding, and specifically Diana's death somewhat formulaic, as if he were ticking off 'issues' to incorporate into his story. Nevertheless, this is an involving and enjoyable read, and I'll be happy to encounter some of these characters again in some future work.
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Margaret09 | 17 other reviews | Apr 15, 2024 |



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