Jonathan Pool's Reviews > Middle England

Middle England by Jonathan Coe
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I gather that this is the third part of a series of books written by Jonathan Coe, over several years. The same characters populate the stories. Does this matter? I don’t think so. If you had not told me that there were prequels, I would not have guessed it.
I read Middle England during the week in which the UK parliamentary vote for the Brexit agreement (scheduled to come into force on 29 March 2019). (it was postponed at the eleventh hour).
The “Brexit” ruminations in Middle England were thought provoking, and some were quite insightful. That accounts for my three stars. The characterisations of the individuals and their relationships towards one another were terrible. By and large each life, each family, had convenient, and totally unbelievable, wrap ups. The on/off marriage between Sophie Potter and Ian was so insipid- no chemistry, no sparkle, nothing original. Really disappointing.
Ben(jamin)’s reclusiveness also failed to convince me, and actually, thinking again about this being a trilogy, the absence of any substance on his estranged brother and secret daughter are probably explained by the fact that they (I assume) appeared in the earlier novels. It just makes Middle England disjointed and ambiguous. If Jonathan Coe aspires to be a British writer in the mould of Evelyn Waugh, or Anthony Powell, he misses by a mile.

So far as Brexit is concerned- and the complicated relationship between Britons and the wider, connected world, the book worked much better for me.

• (129-139)A great section transported back to 2012 and the Olympic Games in London. Not the Olympic Games as sporting endeavour- but that Opening ceremony. Mike Oldfield, Tim Berners-Lee, James Bond, the NHS. Yes, the gestation or realisation of a stand-alone Britain may well have been fostered at that moment.

• (67) Richard Kalergi. I had never heard of him previously, but it seems as though the European union idyll and the accompanying angst goes back a long way.

• Dave Cameron, the Bullingdon club. The antics of a small coterie of selfish individuals playing politics.

Would I return to Jonathan Coe? Probably not in print. In the hands of a good director I guess the effect might work better.
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Reading Progress

December 9, 2018 – Started Reading
December 9, 2018 – Shelved
December 9, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Hugh (new) - added it

Hugh The first part of the series (The Rotters' Club) was very entertaining, but I must admit that my expectations for this one are not great...


Robert It's not on the same level as Rotter's Club. But I think it is better than Closed Circle


message 3: by Gumble's Yard (new)

Gumble's Yard I initially assumed this was a follow up to What a Carve Up and Number 11 - but when I realised it wasn't I decided to cancel my library reservation as I had not read the first two in this series.

I have just posted my reviews of those two books as realised I had never put them on Goodreads. I found them very entertaining and readable but with some flaws (particularly in Number 11).


Marina That blow by blow account of the Olympic opening ceremony...I couldn't help but think - I could just watch this on Youtube (haven't actually checked that...!)


Tillandsia I agree with your review, but I just want to say: don't give up on Jonathan Coe. What a Carve Up! is brilliant, and so is its sequel, Number 11. (Which you can read first if you want - I did.) I'm extra disappointed with this book because I had high expectations based on what I had read by him before.


Jonathan Pool Thank you for the prompt, Tillandsia. A second chance it shall be, consequent to your defence of Mr. Coe!!


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