Taylor's Reviews > The Closed Circle

The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe
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's review
Jul 22, 2014

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, own, the-power-of-love, hidden-gems
Recommended for: people who liked "Rotters Club"
Read in April, 2008

Closed Circle is the follow-up to one of my favorite books, The Rotters Club. The Rotters Club is all about a group of friends going through their adolescence and Closed Circle finds them in middle age.

Rotters Club had a political undercurrent, but this has a lot more politics in it, which felt a little overwhelming from the standpoint of someone who doesn't know much about English politics. Once it got in to Tony Blair and Iraq, I was fine (obviously), but everything up to that point was a little more grey for me. I understood the basics of what was going on, but all of the finer points were lost on me, so it just got to be too much, and there were parts that I skimmed over because of that.

Even though there are more politics in the story, the book as a whole felt a little more shallow, mostly because the relationships felt very shallow (which could very well be his commentary on middle age). All of the political jargon felt like Coe compensating for the weak relationships (the Paul/Malvina storyline still made no sense to me beyond the obvious sexuality), whereas I'd rather have him hold back on the politics and bolster the relationships, because the relationships are what's so interesting about these two books.

Speaking of which, he withholds the juiciest scene from the book! Two of the characters were romantically separated and then reunited, and we hear about the reunion from other characters, not from the two characters involved. I was particularly attached to their storyline, so it was a bit of a disappointment not to hear about it from either of their points of view. We learn very little of the motivations of why they were really separated, why they stayed separated for so long without any contact, and why they got back together. C'mon!

These issues aside, Coe did retain the things that I like about him: his sense of humor and his writing skills. I actually think his writing got better in the terms of the words he uses, just unfortunately it was at the sake of the plot. This was more of a page-turner, to the point where I found myself anxious about it. Although, I do think that's because he laid the foundation so strongly with Rotters Club.

As a whole, definitely an easier and more suspenseful read than Rotters Club, but not quite as majestic or moving. Rotters Club made me cry, and this didn't come close.

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