Rebecca's Reviews > Number 11

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-via-netgalley, linked-short-stories, read-for-a-book-club

This is a funny and mildly disturbing state-of-England and coming-of-age novel. I’d only read one previous book by Coe, Expo 58, an unrepresentative 1950s-set comedy, so this is a better example of his usual pattern: multiple, loosely linked storylines. Here the theme is the absurdity of modern culture, encompassing many aspects: unjust wars, the excesses of the uber-rich, the obsession with celebrity, and suspicion and exclusion of those who are different from us. The number 11 keeps popping up, too.

My favorite parts were a Survivor-type reality television show and a laughably over-the-top prize ceremony banquet. At times I had trouble fitting all the pieces together in my mind, which reduced the impact, but overall it works. The biting critique never detracts from the characterization, and the bizarre ending, with its dip into fantasy, is a delightful little jolt. As Blair has mentioned, there’s a brief reference to What a Carve Up! that suggests this is a sequel, but no knowledge of the previous book is necessary.

(Interesting to see that the U.S. edition has been given a subtitle: Or Tales That Witness Madness.)

Related reading:
Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy (London’s uber-rich)
Capital by John Lanchester (a kaleidoscopic state-of-England novel)
Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn (comic discussion of a prize race)
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Reading Progress

August 20, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
August 20, 2015 – Shelved
August 22, 2015 – Started Reading
August 22, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
August 31, 2015 – Finished Reading
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: linked-short-stories
January 31, 2019 – Shelved as: read-for-a-book-club

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message 1: by Esil (new) - added it

Esil I really like Jonathan Coe. Looking forward to being able to access this on in Canada

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