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The Rotters' Club

(Rotters' Club #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  11,002 ratings  ·  645 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 t ...more
Paperback, 415 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by Vintage (first published February 22nd 2001)
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Jane Upchurch It depends which sequel you're referring to, there are 2! The first sequel is Closed Circle, then the last in the trilogy is Middle England (not Littl…moreIt depends which sequel you're referring to, there are 2! The first sequel is Closed Circle, then the last in the trilogy is Middle England (not Little England, I think Johannes is getting confused with Little Britain the TV show!!)(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  11,002 ratings  ·  645 reviews

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Andy Marr
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why I gave this only three stars when I first read it five years ago. It was probably that final chapter, the 13000 word sentence, which felt too far removed stylistically from the rest of the novel to really work. This same final section remained jarring second time around, but with a near-perfect first 350 pages, I can't possibly give the whole book less than four stars.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Damn, I loved this book. Keeping one half of my mind on what I was reading and the rest on how I was feeling, thinking and believing in respect to what he had to say. This book kept me present in the moment - completely and authentically witnessing whatever was being conveyed. Few books manage to accomplish this. When those times came where my reading was interrupted I couldn’t wait to return to the story. Coe makes it so easy to pick up his character’s transmissions. There is zero interference. ...more
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5-star-diamonds
It was the world, the world itself that was beyond his reach, this whole absurdly vast, complex, random, measureless construct, this never-ending ebb and flow of human relations, political relations, cultures, histories… How could anyone hope to master such things? It was not like music. Music always made sense. The music he heard that night was lucid, knowable, full of intelligence and humour, wistfulness and energy and hope. He would never understand the world, but he would always love this
Vit Babenco
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Telling his controversially romantic story Jonathan Coe is at the same time most ironic and nostalgic.
When we grow up it seems to us that we live in the best of times. But reality may be quite different… And the middle of the seventies was the time of stagnation.
“They sat and drank their pints. The tables in which their faces were dimly reflected were dark brown, the darkest brown, the colour of Bournville chocolate. The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk. The carpet was brown
I rarely give up on a book. If I am not enjoying a book, I usually slog my way through in the hope that eventually I will find something to like. Here I simply cannot go on any longer.

The writing style does not attract me in the least. The writing is long-winded. A topic is broached, and it takes ages until something is said. And then, rarely does that which is finally said, interest me. Or that which is said annoys me! For example, there is a long drawn out conversation among schoolkids—they ha
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like their novels to have a little bit of everything
Much to my delight, this held up very strong on the second read. Before I re-read it, I browsed through some of the reviews others had written on this site, and it made me nervous - maybe I just loved this book so much because I was young and it's about youth, so I just connected to it out of a common vim and vigor.

Not the case.

Not only did I love it the second time around, I think I liked it even more.

As much as I don't like to compare authors so much, I can't help but describe this as Rushdie
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
‘Great guy wishes groovy chick to write, into Tull, Pink Floyd, 17-28.’

‘Wanted girl friend, any age, but 4 ft. 10 in. or under, all letters answered.’

“Guy, 18, cat lover, seeks London chick, into Sabbath. Only Freaks please.”

“Freaky Guy (20) wants crazy chick (16+) for love. Into Quo and Zep”

Leeds boy with scooter, looks OK, seeks girlfriend 17-21 for discos, concerts. Photo appreciated

[Note: the above are quotations from genuine lonely hearts advertisements in Sounds (1973)]

Why the hell had I n
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My second reading of The Rotters' club has made me notice so many little things I had somehow missed the first time round. This is Coe at his sharpest, unveiling inconvenient sides of England - the elitism, the social
Stratification, the racism, the destruction of welfare state under Thatcher, the war conducted against trade unions - the dark side of a country I have come to love so much, told by characters who stick with the reader long after the novel has been finished and put back in the shelf
Lee Foust
The phrase that jumps to mind, critically, as I sit to compose a response to this novel is "Jack of all trades, master of none." The Rotter's Club does many things pretty well: smooth read, engrossing enough plot, interesting enough characters, fine evocation of time period (1970s) and place (Birmingham), political/social commentary/observation on class and race in that place and time so pivotal, in retrospect, to those of us of that generation, in forming today's horror show. I also personally ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easiest 5 stars I had given in a long time
Didn’t want this book to end
Waiting on receiving the second book in the series in the mail and see how the characters evolved in the 1980s to 2000s
Jonathan Coe did an amazing job in bringing 1970s Birmingham into the forefront of this novel
Jonathan Norton
Feb 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Coe's a jolly nice chap, and his articles on various topics are interesting, above all his long campaign championing B.S.Johnson, which I remember him launching in The Spectator in 1991, culminating in the superb biography. So it's a shame that I have to admit I've never thought much of his own fiction, which always seems to be quite bland, cliched prose stapled together with awkward attempts at Johnsonian formal experimentalism, which only emphasise how far he's falling short of his he ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
One thing is certain: I thoroughly enjoy reading everything written by Coe, his prose is to the point, cynical and very very British! I learned quite a lot about Britain in the 70's and I absolutely loved the longest English sentence, comprising of 13,955 words.
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Rotter’s Club is Jonathan Coe’s attempt at writing a coming of age tale. However this is Jonathan Coe and he manages to turn this seemingly innocent plot into a political allegory of sorts.

The setting is 1974 and a group of late teens are going through the usual trials and tribulations of that age group: There’s Benjamin, the erstwhile dreamer, Doug the wannabe journalist and Philip another person who dreams big. They fall in and out of love, have misadventures and walk into strange situatio
Justin Evans
May 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This gave me almost everything I want. What do I want from a novel? I want it funny but sincere; hard-nosed but sentimental; readable but formally interesting; restrained but also balls to the wall. Ideally it'll be concerned with social events while grounding them in personal lives.
RC isn't laugh out loud funny, but it's pretty funny. I felt a bit bad laughing at people who get excited at the culinary possibilities of sour cream and sometimes Coe takes too many cheap shots of the 'boy the seve
Sep 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Very enjoyable read. In essence an evocation of the 1970s in Great Britain (the strikes, the Ira terrorism, the emerging punk, the arrival of Margaret Thatcher), especially seen through the eyes of teens, with Benjamin Trotter from Birmingham as a central character. Occasionally some less functional side tracks. The diversity of styles (diary excerpts, letters, monologues, dialogues, omniscient narrator) gives a certain dynamic, but is a bit artificial. The finale, a 35-page long stream of consc ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book. The characters are boring and flat. The author switches between the charecters so frequently and at such quantity it’s hard to keep up with the names and relations.
The Trotter family, Mum – Sheila, Dad – Colin children Ben going to King William’s , Lois working and Paul still at school, are the central group who see new people come and go through the years as they work, play, study and fight. Ben’s friends Philip Chase and Dougie Anderton are at the same school so depending upon their particular likes and dislikes, get involved with the music scene often quoting the NME (New Musical Express), the school magazine, the fights, the way life moves and bends th ...more
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
It took me at least 100 pages to finally settle into The Rotter's Club. It certainly does not fit the kind of profile of book that I tend to read, but I was feeling a little uninspired and this book was recommended to me.

It was hard to keep track of the layered plot lines initially, but I eventually got a hold of them. I also felt as though I would have been better equipped had I known more about Britain during the 1970s. But there was something charming about a lot of the characters, perhaps be
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Get rid of nationalism and you've solved ninety percent of the problems of the world. Anyone who tries to play the nationalist card and make political capital out of it is just beneath contempt. They're just the scum of the earth[...]"

"The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk. The carpet was brown with little hexagons of slightly different brown, if you looked closely. The ceiling was meant to be off-white, but was in fact brown, browned by the nicotine smoke of a million unfilt
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Rotters’ Club is a novel set in an England in the early 1970s. A very different country to what it is now. In 1973 the UK was going through a bombing campaign by the IRA, strikes including a national miners’ strike and power cuts (an infamous 3-day week had to be employed on commerce and industry - check Youtube film of office staff having to work by candlelight), growing far left and far right populists.

Add to this mix school rivalries within an environment of a “malign, inexorable divisiv
Brona's Books
I'm reading Coe's trilogy about the life and times of Benjamin Trotter the wrong way round, chronologically speaking. But after reading and enjoying the third book in the series, Middle England, so much last month, I knew I had to find out how the whole thing started.

The Rotter's Club is a 2001 novel set in 1970's Birmingham and just like Middle England, it is a curious mix of nostalgia and satire.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a teenage version of Ben, Philip and Doug, but I did find thei
Thalia Geladaki
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have no idea why it took me over a decade to read this book. As always, great humor and character building. He manages to walk you through Britain’s most peculiar and interesting times in the blink of an eye.
Tony DeHaan
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful tale of growing up in 1970s Britain, with its strikes, powerful unions, IRA bombings; and the joys and hardships of the Trotter family. Near the end of the book are the reminiscences of Benjamin Trotter: a real "tour de force" of author Jonathan Coe, for it runs for 37 pages without a single full stop... And it is still very readable!
Neil Fox
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
In physical years, the 1970's are closer to the end of WW2 than they are to where we sit today in 2017. But as a State of mind, the 70's seem light years away, an anomaly of a Decade or a unique State of Mind that was very different to the Swinging 60's preceeding it or the 80's that came after. For myself and my contemporaries now in our late 40's, the 70's inhabit a dusty, murky corner of Childhood memory, and for friends of mine in their 50's they define an adolescence with a context that was ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s something of a mystery to me how I missed this book for so many years. It was published in 2001 but I didn’t get around to reading it until 2013.

I had been aware of it, vaguely. Had I know what it was about, I’m sure I would have read it much sooner.

Why? Well, aside from the fact I couldn’t have written it – not having the necessary literary skills – it might have been about my life.

The story concerns a group of four boys who attend a public (private) school in Birmingham (UK) in the 1970s,
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
For a spectacular reading experience, have all three books in the series - The Rotters' Club, The Closed Circle and Middle England - in hand before you read this one. Coe is a magician at structuring complicated but yet decipherable stories, compared to many other writers I've read. Because of the structure, however, and the number of characters and the time covered in these three books, to really follow the trajectory of the characters and for an exceptional experience, I recommend you read the ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
I feel bad about giving this 2 stars, because I love the way Jonathan Coe writes. But unfortunately I only made it to the three quarters mark before I decided not to continue. It's not a bad story, but it's so slow. I just got too bored. If it was a quarter of the length, I'd probably give it 4 stars. It doesn't help that I'm not interested in politics either, this being a major part of the story. I mainly like the way he writes about relationships and interactions, but affair after affair begin ...more
Lore Cochran
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
other people rave about it. I struggled to get through this & didn't really feel rewarded for my efforts. yes it does feel very 1970s & gives a feel for the era but I just didn't bond with any of the characters, I just didn't feel the love
for anyone. I think that is probably why I struggled throughout.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Sorry Mr Coe, I tried to get to like how you pen stories, but I find your desire for extensive monologues extremely pointless and annoying, I found myself skipping pages of these. I wanted to yell, enough Mr Coe, get to the point, tell me why, no more of this word stew!
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Jonathan Coe, born 19 August 1961 in Birmingham, is a British novelist and writer. His work usually has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, although this serious engagement is often expressed comically in the form of satire. For example, What a Carve Up! rew

Other books in the series

Rotters' Club (3 books)
  • The Closed Circle (Rotters' Club, #2)
  • Middle England (Rotters' Club, #3)

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“Sometimes I feel that I am destined always to be offstage whenever the main action occurs. That God has made me the victim of some cosmic practical joke, by assigning me little more than a walk-on part in my own life. Or sometimes I feel that my role is simply to be a spectator to other people's stories, and always to wander away at the most important moment, drifiting into the kitchen to make a cup of tea just as the denouement unfolds.” 33 likes
“These pieces, he already realised, were merely stepping stones at the start of a journey towards something - some grand artefact, either musical, or literary, or filmic, or perhaps a combination of all three - towards which he knew he was advancing, slowly but with a steady, inexorable tread. Something which would enshrine his feelings for Cicely, and which she would perhaps hear, or read, or see in ten or twenty years' time, and suddenly realize, on her pulse, that it was created for her, intended for her, and that of all the boys who had swarmed around her like so many drones at school, Benjamin had been, without her having the wit to notice it, by far the purest in heart, by far the most gifted and giving. On that day the awareness of all she had missed, all she had lost, would finally break upon her in an instant, and she would weep; weep for her foolishness, and of the love that might have been between them.

Of course, Benjamin could always just have spoken to her, gone up to her in the bus queue and asked her for a date. But this seemed to him, on the whole, the more satisfactory approach.”
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