Middle England

Jonathan Coe. Knopf, $27.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-525-65647-0
Coe’s excellent novel, the third in a trilogy, picks up his characters’ lives roughly a decade after the events of The Closed Circle and finds them settled into “the quiet satisfactions of under-achievement” in later middle age in England. Benjamin Trotter, the sentimental would-be novelist, has retired to a bucolic converted mill house; his old classmate Doug Anderton, a leftist journalist, lives comfortably off his wife’s fortune; and his sister, Lois, has reached a pleasant, if unexciting, plateau in her career and marriage. Their sense of complacency is lost soon enough; Brexit, and the larger referendum on British identity, looms over the novel, throwing established characters into bewildered frustration and new, younger characters—notably Benjamin’s niece Sophie, an art historian, and Doug’s teenage daughter, Coriander—onto the front lines of the culture war. Doug spars with a flippant young communications staffer for then–prime minister David Cameron, who seems to speak a different language; Sophie’s marriage is upended by conflicting views on Brexit, and she finds herself the target of Coriander’s campus activism; Benjamin’s ailing father clings to life just long enough to vote “Leave.” It’s a neat pastiche of the cultural flash points of the past decade, done with humor and empathy. While Coe’s own politics will be clear to the reader, the novel is a remarkable portrait of a country at an inflection point. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/05/2019
Release date: 08/20/2019
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-0-525-65648-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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