Middle England — Jonathan Coe

Just finished reading Middle England by Jonathan Coe. This is actually the third in a series by Jonathan Coe where he follows a middle class family through their lives. I didn’t know this when picking it up and soon realised it didn’t matter: I fell in with the characters quickly enough and soon became absorbed in their pretty inconsequential trials like falling in love with people in different social groups and feeling alienated from society because their mansion in Chelsea was too big.

The novel is played out on the landscape of British politics from 2011 to 2018. Coe name drops events like the phone hacking scandal, the London Olympics and of course, Brexit becomes a huge fixture in the story. If you too were disappointed with how Ali Smith’s Brexit novel doesn’t even mention Brexit once, you’ll be satisfied by Coe hamfistedly shoving it in to every chapter in the latter half of his novel. Not that I’m complaining, although it is funny that Brexit and all the surrounding furore reads almost like an escapist fantasy amongst the current political backdrop. And that’s exactly what is so appealing about this novel: it’s twee, witty and even chirpy.

Coe portrays his eternal optimism in the face of what we all then thought was the doom of the country (how innocent and naive we were). His dialogue is theatrical and well paced - the whole novel is a delightful Brexit melodrama. There is a lot wrong with the novel too. I hate the way the only Eastern Europeans presented in the novel are a vehicle to boost the white mens’ egos and there is a lot that could be said about representation in this novel in general but as the frivolity is enough to make you forget. For sheer narrative pleasure, with a little bit of Tory bashing thrown in, Middle England is the way to go.

3/5.

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