Sam Howard's Reviews > The Rotters' Club

The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe
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's review
Jun 23, 11

Read from June 06 to 20, 2011

This book was really unexpected; having never lived through the 70's (too youthful), i thought i would find the politics (and there is a fair chunky bit of politics) would breeze over me and i simply wouldn't comprehend any of it. This was not the case, on the contrary i found it to be most illuminating, and from what i can gather, it seems to be a fairly good representation of the applied politics of the time. So Coe did something great, took a scenaro that not everyone knows about, or has lived through, and still delivered a nostalgic novel, regardless of your context or age or location, where the politics not only felt like i already knew them, but felt timelessly relevant.

I enjoyed the "growing up" aspect of this one as well, i felt i could relate to the core group and, even if they were a bit cliched at times, i guess that being a teenager is like that, just that everyone thinks they are the first person to ever go through it. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments (which i won't disclose for spoiler purposes), but the extracts from the school newspapers never failed to have me in literal stitches. I would say though that these kids were all super intellegent, i am sure i didn't have such a grasp on arts, books, life as they do here. That just made it fun. I can really imagine that Coe had a great deal of fun writing this, as the episodes in the book have a tongue in cheek hindsight to them, that suggests that Coe put a lot of his own teenaged years into his characters, only this time with a fully mature intellegence and security to fuel it. My one criticism is that i found on occasion that the characters were a little bit flat, and a little bit emotionally one dimensional. Coe really did counter this in the final part of the novel though with the long written monologue from Ben. So i guess that the emotions grow with the climax of the novel; and i have to say that i was happy when it ended. It didn't really have that natural an end point, and i can understand why Coe felt the need to write a sequal.

I have to say that Coe has a really good writing style, and for such a comic novel, Coe really likes to mess around with narrative form. I did find the flashback narrative a bit defunct, the only purpose it served really was that tongue in cheek hindsight that permiates the flashback narrative, and even more bizarrely it isn't even told by anyone who features in the flashback sequence which is most of this novel. So the detail and the exploration into so many characters didn't really add up to this modern Berlin setting. Although i guess it frames the narrative pretty well, and it means as well i suppose that the sequal has plenty of opportunities to examine this group of characters from a completely different perspective. So i undo all of my criticisms. Well not undo, but i see how it is useful, it just felt a bit forced to me.

Ah well, i enjoyed it a lot, and would recommend it a lot. Coe is a top rate author.


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Reading Progress

06/06/2011 page 108
25.0% "Herr Baumann was my father's German counterpart, you might say...."

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