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The Rotters' Club (Vintage Contemporaries)by Jonathan Coe
"If Coe is right to claim that the 1970s were 'brown times,' then it is a testament to his skill that he has rendered them in such vivid colors." Stephen Amidon, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Birmingham, England, c. 1973: industrial strikes, bad pop music, corrosive class warfare, adolescent angst, IRA bombings. Four friends: a class clown who stoops very low for a laugh; a confused artist enthralled by guitar rock; an earnest radical with socialist leanings; and a quiet dreamer obsessed with poetry, God, and the prettiest girl in school. As the world appears to self-destruct around them, they hold together to navigate the choppy waters of a decidedly ambiguous decade.
"The first of two books (the sequel, The Closed Circle, has just been published) traces the adolescence of a small group in Birmingham, England, amid IRA bombings and Tory-Labour disputes, the boys' own first forays into sex and their parents' extramarital affairs, their private school intrigues, and the constant scandals of the school paper. Funny, panoramic, with every character, however brief, beautifully drawn." Tin House magazine
"Reflective and compelling, satirical and tender, wildly imaginative and painstakingly realistic." Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post Book World
"Please, God...if there?s a next life, let me write as well as Jonathan Coe. The Rotters' Club offers a thick slice of seventies Birmingham — sharp, acerbic, and menacingly true; a sad, funny, thoroughly engaging look at compromise, complicity, and change in a decade many of us would choose to forget. I want more. Now." Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour
"A must-read for anyone who cares about contemporary literature." Katie Owen, The Telegraph
"England in the 1970s comes vividly to life in Coe's wonderfully entertaining novel....Coe's affection for his characters and the genuinely funny set pieces travel across the Atlantic with nothing lost. Think Nick Hornby by way of Julian Barnes." Booklist
"If there?s a contemporary novelist who combines sharp and sometimes savage social commentary with the classic, full-blooded pleasures novels are supposed to give readers as well as Jonathan Coe does, I must have missed him." Charles Taylor, Salon.com
"Jonathan Coe is the most exciting young British novelist writing today, and The Rotters' Club is yet another in an unbroken string of entrancing achievements." Bret Easton Ellis
"I can't think of a writer who is more faithful to his memory, or to his perception of other people's memories, than [Coe]. Even those of us who didn't come of age in 1970s Birmingham, England, will hear echoes of our own youth in [his] latest novel." The Oregonian
"Its tinder-dry combustion of comic, indignant and elegiac suggests an Evelyn Waugh of the left." Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
"A thrillingly traitorous work. It hums along for a hundred pages of wise comedy about teenage love's mortifications, then cold cocks us with an honest surprise as cruel as it is earned." David Kipen, San Francisco Chronicle
"Jonathan Coe is a mesmerizing writer....The Rotters' Club is a wonderfully gripping novel, by turns funny, heartbreaking and terrifying." The Seattle Times
"The novel's many intricate parts manage to mesh and turn with the startling harmony you find in Robert Altman's movies." Todd Pruzan, The Village Voice
"Tasty but filling: a rich (too rich, perhaps) portrait of a time and a place that have received less than their fair share of literary attention." Kirkus Reviews
"[W]itty, sprawling and ambitious....Coe is immensely clever, but that cleverness is almost misplaced here: universal as it may be, adolescent angst doesn't really compare to the problems of massive social change." Publishers Weekly
"With his hyper-lucid prose and eye for the whimsical, the absurd and the quintessentially human, Jonathan Coe is Britain's best contemporary fictional chronicler." Will Self
"As always with Jonathan Coe, the sheer intelligent good nature that suffuses his work makes it a pleasure to read." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (U.K.)
Jonathan Coe's latest novel combines comedy and tragedy in a vastly moving and entertaining tale pitting private lives against harsh political realities.
The Rotters' Club is a sprawling coming-of-age tale that chronicles the heartbreaking and hilarious vicissitudes in the lives of four friends: an irrepressible class clown, a confused artist, an earnest radical, and a quiet dreamer obsessed with poetry and music, God, and a girl. Set against the turbulent British seventies — a decade of industrial strikes, IRA bombings and rising nationalist racism — this marvelous tale is rounded out with an unforgettable cast of supporting characters. Jonathan Coe is a proven master of innovation and style, and this latest triumph — witty, wistful, poignant and profound — leaves little doubt as to why he is considered one of the most exciting young writers from across the Atlantic.
Set against the turbulent British '70s — a decade of industrial strikes, IRA bombings and rising nationalist racism — this marvelous tale combines comedy and tragedy in a sprawling coming-of-age chronicle of four friends. A Book Sense 76 Pick.
A comic spy caper and international love story, set in Europe in the middle of the last century, Expo 58 is the latest sublime creation by Jonathan Coe, hailed by Nick Hornby as “probably the best English novelist of his generation.”
Handsome, unassuming Thomas Foley is an employee at the Central Office of Information whose particular biography (Belgian mother, pub-owning father) makes him just the man to oversee the “authentic British pub” that will be erected at the 1958 Brussels Worlds Fair. Its the first major expo after World War II, meant to signify unity, but theres inevitable intrigue involving the U.S. and Soviet delegations. In the shadow of an immense, imposingly modern structure called the Atomium, the married Foley becomes both agent and pawn—when hes not falling head over heels for Anneke, his Belgian hostess.
Funny, fast-paced, and genuinely moving, Expo 58 is both a perfect evocation of a moment in history and the welcome return of one of todays finest novelists.
About the Author
Jonathan Coe has received the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the Prix Médicis Etranger, and, for The Rotters' Club, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for the most original comic writing. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
The Chick and the Hairy Guy 7
The Very Maws of Doom 113
Green Coaster 377
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