Reading Group 1 Reviews – Oct 23 – Middle England by Jonathon Coe

This novel is an account of the years immediately before and after the UK’s 2016 European Referendum, seen through the eyes of a disparate group of old and young, academic and non-academic, politically engaged and would-rather-listen-to-music people, all centred on Benjamin Trotter, a struggling writer living a quiet life in the English Midlands. Beginning eight years ago on the outskirts of Birmingham, where car factories have been replaced by Poundland, and London, where frenzied riots give way to Olympic fever, Middle England follows a cast of characters through a time of immense change.

There are newlyweds Ian and Sophie, who disagree about the future of the country and, possibly, the future of their relationship; Doug, the political commentator who writes impassioned columns about austerity from his Chelsea townhouse, and his radical teenage daughter who will stop at nothing in her quest for social justice; Benjamin Trotter, who embarks on an apparently doomed new career in middle age, and his father Colin, whose last wish is to vote in the European referendum. And within all these lives is the story of modern England: a story of nostalgia and delusion; of bewilderment and barely-suppressed rage.

Member Reviews:

L – I didn’t get to grips with the characters and storylines.  It said on the front cover that it was meant to be a comedy, I  didn’t think it was that funny.

D – I thought it was brilliant!  Tongue in cheek amusing, and also slightly depressing at the same time.  A very honest view of the rather sad state of affairs in this country.  I expect that one’s view of the UK following the EU referendum may depend upon which way one voted.  It’s a struggle to explain the phenomenon of populism sweeping through western society since 2016, leading to the election of Trump and the result of the referendum. It is with the subject of Brexit, however, that we really see the value of a novel in exploring human experience.

Posted in Reading Group 1.