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The Rotters' Club (2001)

by Jonathan Coe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Rotters' Club (1)

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1,835336,352 (3.84)40
Jonathan Coe's new novel is set in the 1970s against a distant backdrop of strikes, terrorist attacks and growing racial tension. A group of young friends inherit the editorship of their school magazine and begin to put their own distinctive spin on to events in the wider world. A zestful comedy of personal and social upheaval, The Rotters' Club captures a fateful moment in British politics - the collapse of 'Old Labour' - and imagines its impact on the topsy-turvy world of the bemused teenager: a world in which a lost pair of swimming trunks can be just as devastating as an IRA bomb.… (more)
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English (26)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
In Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters’ Club we learn up close and personal about the perils and pitfalls of coming of age in 1970s Birmingham. We experience this through the lives of a small group of sixteen and seventeen year-olds Brummies: the loves (or crushes, really), the budding interests and careers, the divide between Tory and Labor - it’s all here. Adolescent drama, and some very adult issues too, leavened with a series of hysterical interludes involving these sympathetic characters - these are the constituent parts of Coe’s enjoyable fiction.

Ben Trotter, a Birmingham sixth-former, anchors these stories. A gentle, highly intelligent soul, he reads widely of the classics, and has ambitions both literary and musical. His yearning for the far-off and inaccessible Cicely generates considerable energy in this narrative; it is a story that runs the length of the book, and has its own twists and turns. British socialist labor strife plays a large role, not only as backdrop, but as a prime mover and shaper of these young people’s lives. There is a divide here, too, perhaps more deeply marked in the pre-Thatcher Britain. Factory workers routinely go out on strike, reciting the principles of international socialism. And the teenagers fall to one side or the other, essentially as their families go.

I enjoyed the experience of reading The Rotters’ Club. Its characters tug at our feelings with a kind of partisan energy: kind vs. grasping, ambitious vs. rambunctious, idealistic vs. cynical. All through it, these young people and adults act and react with true human impulses, and Coe keeps us tethered with enough twists and turns to satisfy. At length, this does not measure up to The House of Sleep, my other exposure to Coe. Fun, gratifying, diverting, reflective of the zeitgeist of the moment, this book is passable reading, but it doesn’t strive for the stratosphere, which frankly, I expected from a novel by Coe.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-rotters-club-by-jonathan-coe.htm... ( )
  LukeS | Nov 16, 2019 |
While I appreciated the details (especially the musical ones), the place-holding characters were often malnourished. This novel seriously suffers in comparison to Black Swan Green. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
The group enjoyed this book - not as much as Salmon Fishing or Shadow, but enjoyed it nonetheless. The language was very easy to read, and it was surprisingly compelling to follow the lives of characters that are fairly ordinary people. The characters were well crafted and engaging and that is what made the novel so entertaining. The author writes dialogue extremely well and there were moments that were truly hilarious. The fact that the novel was set in the 80s made it very interesting because the events, culture and products/items/technology of that decade are woven throughout the fabric of the novel such that reading the novel was like looking back in time as well as reading a work of fiction. The start of the section The Very Maws of Doom made group members feel that the book was now shifting to 1st person so it was interesting to see that this was an unpublished story by Ben Trotter. Changes like this made the book interesting if not disorienting.There were some epistolary elements to the book, which made for an interesting read. The group did struggle with the ending though: the section called Green Coaster. This 'stream of consciousness' chapter was an interesting literary choice by the author but the group felt it went on too long and was hard to get through, and as such it didn't work.
  PossumOfWar | Oct 27, 2017 |
senza perdersi in inutili parole... dico solo che è imperdibile. molto bello. da leggere poi subito (o quasi) il seguito: Il circolo chiuso ( )
  SirJo | Sep 4, 2017 |
A charming and very funny look at a group of young people growing up in Birmingham in the 1970s, attending a provincial grammar school that takes itself a little bit too seriously, and discovering that instead of the gloriously psychedelic world of prog rock, idealistic socialism and dadaist poetry they've been led to expect, life is going to confront them with Enoch Powell, Grunwick, IRA bombs, the Sex Pistols and Margaret Thatcher.

Coe takes us through all the usual elements of the "coming-of-age" novel with his tongue firmly in his cheek, and has fun mocking his narrator's literary and musical aspirations. We get blow-by-blow descriptions of some truly awful experimental music (but no worse than the real thing) and some mock-literary experimentation, including a sentence several times longer than the final chapter of Ulysses (the only interesting thing the writers of the Wikipedia article seem to have noticed about this book!).

Since I happen to be about the same age as Coe's characters and went to a rather similar school, this pressed a lot of nostalgia-buttons for me, and it's undoubtedly a well-written, entertaining book that captures the peculiar feeling of those times very well. Not as striking and original as The Buddha of suburbia, perhaps, and possibly not of all that much interest if you aren't already familiar with the late seventies in the UK. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Coeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chauvin, JamilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damsma, HarmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frame, PeteIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hornby, Nicksecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juhász, Viktorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nonhoff, Skysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrai, RobertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Janine, Matilda and Madeline
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On a clear, blueblack, starry night, in the city of Berlin, in the year of 2003, two young people sat down to dinner.
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I [=Benjamin] think about this story, sometimes. It's one of the things I try to make sense of. I thought of it as we drove away from Skagen to return our hire car to the airport at Alborg the next morning. I thought of it today as I walked home from the bus stop to my parents' house. But slowly, irresistibly, I can feel it beginning to dissolve into the hazy falsehood of memory. That is why I have written it down, although in doing so I know that all I have achieved is to falsify it differently, more artfully. (Penguin Books 2002 p. 128)
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