cover image Number 11

Number 11

Jonathan Coe. Knopf, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-49336-1

In this sequel to The Winshaw Legacy, two childhood friends, Rachel and Alison, struggle to maintain their friendship and come of age in an England overrun with the alienating forces of modernity: austerity, social media, and capitalism run amok. The book’s point of view is widely, admirably panoramic, detailing Rachel’s early obsession with the death of David Kelly, Alison’s mother’s stint on a Survivor-style reality show, and an Oxford professor’s search for a long-lost German film reel, as well as the travails of two ideologically mismatched detectives, a bloviating right-wing columnist, and a Romanian dog walker who may or may not transform into a giant spider. Rachel is later employed as a tutor for the children of a tax-dodging billionaire, Sir Gilbert Gunn, whose mammoth home expansion includes the excavation and construction of an 11-story basement. The disparate plots draw near one another but never fully meet in action or in theme; nevertheless, this is still an entertaining satire. (Jan.)