978-0-375-71312-5 / 9780375713125

The Rotters' Club





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About the book:

At a time when people are looking back on the 1970s with nostalgia, Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club is a timely reminder of how ghastly that benighted decade was in Britain. Set in the "industrial" heartland of the West Midlands, it chronicles the growing pains of four Brummie schoolboys--Philip, Sean, Doug, and Benjamin--who must come to terms not only with the normal pangs of adolescence but with terrible knitwear, ludicrous pop music, nightmarish food, and insidious racism, all set against the awful, surreal, and tragicomic reality of a postimperial nation.

The book suffers in its programmatic attempts to make the four boys and their families symbolize, or represent, something important to do with British life. Doug, for instance, symbolizes Industrial Decline--his dad is a shop steward at the doomed British Leyland Longbridge plant. Sean symbolizes Sexual Liberation--at least he's the one who seems most likely to get his rocks off. And young Ben Trotter would appear to represent A Young Jonathan Coe. But if this aspect of the novel seems contrived, then the author's capricious, deft, wryly comedic, and touchingly empathetic style keeps things chugging along, as he knits together the troubles and tragedies of some fairly ordinary people living through fairly extraordinary years. --Sean Thomas,

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