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The Rotters' Club - Jonathan Coe's iconic 1970s coming-of-age novel
Winner of the Everyman Wodehouse prize, The Rotters' Club follows Benjamin Trotter - bestselling author Jonathan Coe's most iconic character - through the hilarious and, at times, touching trials and tribulations of growing up in 1970s Britain.
Unforgettably funny and painfully honest, Jonathan Coe's tale of Benjamin Trotter and his friends' coming of age during the 1970s is a heartfelt celebration of the joys and agonies of growing up.
Featuring, among other things, IRA bombs, prog rock, punk rock, bad poetry, first love, love on the side. Prefects, detention, a few bottles of Blue Nun, lots of brown wallpaper, industrial strife, and divine intervention in the form of a pair of swimming trunks.
Set against the backdrop of the decade's class struggles, tragic and riotous by turns, packed with thwarted romance and furtive sex, The Rotters' Club will be enjoyed by readers of Nick Hornby and William Boyd and anyone who ever experience adolescence the hard way.
'One of those sweeping, ambitious yet hugely readable, moving and richly comic novels that you find all too rarely in English fiction...a masterpiece' Daily Telegraph
'Very funny...a compulsive and gripping read. Coe had achieved that rare feat: a novel stuffed with characters you really care for' The Times
'A book to cherish, a book to reread, a book to buy for all your friends' Independent on Sunday
Jonathan Coe's novels are filled with biting political satire, moving and astute observations of life and hilarious set pieces that have made him one of the most popular writers of his generation. His other titles, The Closed Circle (sequel to The Rotters' Club), The Accidental Woman, The Dwarves of Death, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, The House of Sleep (winner of the 1998 Prix Médicis Étranger), A Touch of Love, What a Carve Up! (winner of the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize) and The Rain Before it Falls, are all available in Penguin paperback.
This witty, sprawling and ambitious novel relates the coming-of-age stories of a group of adolescents in Birmingham, England, in the 1970s, with the era itself becoming a kind of character, encompassing trivialities like music as well as more serious issues: labor struggles, racism, terrorism. Of course, the teenagers Benjamin Trotter (a play on his name accounts for the novel's title) and three of his male classmates, along with two female peers, are struggling with their own timeless issues: Why are my parents so weird? Will I ever have sex? Is Eric Clapton God? Coe amusingly and sympathetically articulates the desperate nature of teenage life, demonstrating a sure command of his protagonists' vernacular. He juxtaposes "crises" of adolescence with much more compelling events: a pub bombing by Irish nationalists and drawn-out strikes, for example, and the very real toll they take on people, including some of his characters. But this interweaving also reveals the novel's biggest problem: the combination of these two narrative strands isn't as seamless as it ought to be, nor as illuminating as Coe intends. The book is Dickensian in scope, with multiple plot lines and perspectives as well as miniature portraits of virtually everyone connected with the teens. Unfortunately, the narrative is sometimes hard to follow, and individual characters often remain opaque. The difficulty is compounded by rapidly shifting perspectives and an awkward framing narrative set in the early 2000s. As he demonstrated in his well-received novel about the Thatcher years, The Winshaw Legacy, Coe is immensely clever, but that cleverness is almost misplaced here: universal as it may be, adolescent angst doesn't really compare to the problems of massive social change. FYI:This novel is intended as the first of a two-book series, the second of which will revisit the characters' lives in the 1990s.