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It was the world, the world itself that was beyond his reach, this whole absurdly vast, complex, random, measureless construct, this never ending ebb and flow of human relations, political relations, cultures, histories How could anyone hope to master such things It was not like music Music always made sense The music he heard that night was lucid, knowable, full of intelligence and humour, wistfulness and energy and hope He would never understand the world, but he would always love this It was the world, the world itself that was beyond his reach, this whole absurdly vast, complex, random, measureless construct, this never ending ebb and flow of human relations, political relations, cultures, histories How could anyone hope to master such things It was not like music Music always made sense The music he heard that night was lucid, knowable, full of intelligence and humour, wistfulness and energy and hope He would never understand the world, but he would always love this music He listened to this music, with God by his side, and knew that he had found a home There are two sides of England as far as I m concerned One which I love and one which I hate The former includes things like being pretty much the birthplace of rock music, the weather, the literature, anti comformism, great films and TV series etc England gave birth to Banksy for fuck s sake The latter I d rather not talk about so let s leave it at that The Rotters Club has pretty much the very essence of all that I love in British culture Now, I m quite emotional at the moment so I don t think I can be very objective about it but this is one of the greatest modern novels I ve ever read It has an alternative way of narrating, a whole lot of musical as well as political and cultural references, the well known witty British humor, characters that one can t help but care about and loveon that in a second all of which blend together in a multi dimensional story full of twists and turns What I particularly loved and was amazed by, was how Coe managed to make me laugh and one or two sentences after, make the hair on my whole body stand on end At first it was a bit hard to keep track of all the characters, as Coe throws in names as if the reader s already familiar with them That involves the risk of losing the readers interest and or get tangled among his very creations But, not only does that not happen, I actually found it amazingly genius how he so succesfully pulled that trick What s , many as they are, each character is whole and unique and although the story mainly revolves around Benjamin, we are almost equally involved in everybody s lives.I was going to talk about the originality and uniqueness of Coe s plot mechanisms but fuck that Let s talk about feelings So many and so intense Someone once told me that one should be thankful for everything one gets Although things may not be exactly as we want them, there is a profit in everything life might throw in one s way OK, you got me Although this notion is one of the book s themes, it sthat I actually needed an excuse to mention it Teenage angst, fear in front of social instability, envy and eventually love, the most romantic, perfect and magical kind of love, are only some of the feelings Coe portrays through his characters whom we watch as they grow up and develop their personalities.Times like this, I wish I had the eloquence to write the review The Rotters Club deserves It s one of those books that make you feel the need to give to someone special as a gift so that they feel what you felt and thus communicate with each other in the way only a book, a song and tears can provide.4 stars and a wish forlike this I rarely give up on a book If I am not enjoying a book, I usually slog my way through in the hope that eventually I will find something to like Here I simply cannot go on any longer.The writing style does not attract me in the least The writing is long winded A topic is broached, and it takes ages until something is said And then, rarely does that which is finally said, interest me Or that which is said annoys me For example, there is a long drawn out conversation among schoolkids they ha I rarely give up on a book If I am not enjoying a book, I usually slog my way through in the hope that eventually I will find something to like Here I simply cannot go on any longer.The writing style does not attract me in the least The writing is long winded A topic is broached, and it takes ages until something is said And then, rarely does that which is finally said, interest me Or that which is said annoys me For example, there is a long drawn out conversation among schoolkids they have zero, ZERO understanding of current events Is this supposed to be amusing Another example, a boy is in a panic He has forgotten his swimming shorts He is sure his gym teacher will make him swim nude in the pool I can understand his being freaked out, but the author extends this by giving readers imagined taunts the boy will be subjected to by his classmates Those taunts relate to the size of his penis Talk about juvenile Yeah, I know kids could very well do exactly this, but I am not terribly interested in hearing these taunts Further, tell me why this kid cannot simply run home from school If this isn t possible, a reason why should be given Then, this stupid episode is made even worse The boy finds a discarded pair of swimming trunks in an unlocked locker Now he is convinced God has put them there, just for him, and this tells him God exists This is alluded to in the chapter s title Are we supposed to be laughing at all this Well, unfortunately, I am not This book is supposed to be humorous The humor in this book is not my kind of humor.Nor am I interested in hearing about a married man who is physically attracted to young girls It is the mentality, the thoughts in theses characters heads, that irritates me Or bores me This is pure drivel Moreover, IF a physical attraction is felt by a character, I want the writing, the author s words, to make me feel that attraction I am instead revolted by the attraction Neither do I like that in the beginning of the book, a heap of characters are thrown at the reader We are forced to listen to their conversations, and we do not yet have a clue to who they are.I do not relate to the characters There is not a character I am curious to knowabout.What I am saying is that I don t like the writing and I don t like the characters and the humor puts me off The whole thing bores me to death Nicholas Burns narrates the audiobook He reads too quickly for my liking I can hear the words, so the narration is OK The narration gets two stars Damn, I loved this book Keeping one half of my mind on what I was reading and the rest on how I was feeling, thinking and believing in respect to what he had to say This book kept me present in the moment completely and authentically witnessing whatever was being conveyed Few books manage to accomplish this When those times came where my reading was interrupted I couldn t wait to return to the story Coe makes it so easy to pick up his character s transmissions There is zero interference Damn, I loved this book Keeping one half of my mind on what I was reading and the rest on how I was feeling, thinking and believing in respect to what he had to say This book kept me present in the moment completely and authentically witnessing whatever was being conveyed Few books manage to accomplish this When those times came where my reading was interrupted I couldn t wait to return to the story Coe makes it so easy to pick up his character s transmissions There is zero interference This book is a celebration of life from the pathetic and ridiculous to the untamed and unspoiled kingdoms of bliss There are acts of irresponsibility and self indulgence and of passion and pride The trick is how he balances it all He keeps you on the move emotionally speaking Best of all I enjoyed the sensual expressions of the characters out in the world some causing me to erupt in laughter to the point of tears and some to make me quietly smile and sigh with an oh yes expression This is a story full of energy and vital potency It s wild and strong It suggests, for me, that we not play to win but to laugh, feel, and grow Do yourself a favor and read it Telling his controversially romantic story Jonathan Coe is at the same time most ironic and nostalgic.When we grow up it seems to us that we live in the best of times But reality may be quite different And the middle of the seventies was the time of stagnation They sat and drank their pints The tables in which their faces were dimly reflected were dark brown, the darkest brown, the colour of Bournville chocolate The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk The carpet was brown Telling his controversially romantic story Jonathan Coe is at the same time most ironic and nostalgic.When we grow up it seems to us that we live in the best of times But reality may be quite different And the middle of the seventies was the time of stagnation They sat and drank their pints The tables in which their faces were dimly reflected were dark brown, the darkest brown, the colour of Bournville chocolate The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk The carpet was brown, with little hexagons of a slightly different brown, if you looked closely The ceiling was meant to be off white, but was in fact brown, browned by the nicotine smoke of a million unfiltered cigarettes Most of the cars in the car park were brown, as were most of the clothes worn by the patrons Nobody in the pub really noticed the predominance of brown, or if they did, thought it worth remarking upon These were brown times And even the flowery progressive rock the main character s favourite genre of music was nothing but an emblem of escapism As the silence of seasons on we relive abridge sails afloat As to call light the soul shall sing of the velvet sailors course on Behind extravagance there is nothing but vacuity You don t understand what these people are about At least with Enoch Powell you ve got some thought behind it, something you can argue with Christ, even the National Front s got an ideology Of sorts But these people It s just an instinct with them It s just hatred Hatred and violence And periods of stagnation always are the most reactionary time.But anyway the time of our youth is the best time Birmingham, England, cindustrial strikes, bad pop music, corrosive class warfare, adolescent angst, IRA bombings Four friends a class clown who stoops very low for a laugh a confused artist enthralled by guitar rock an earnest radical with socialist leanings and a quiet dreamer obsessed with poetry, God, and the prettiest girl in school As the world appears to self destruct around them, they hold together to navigate the choppy waters of a decidedly ambiguous decade Much to my delight, this held up very strong on the second read Before I re read it, I browsed through some of the reviews others had written on this site, and it made me nervous maybe I just loved this book so much because I was young and it s about youth, so I just connected to it out of a common vim and vigor.Not the case.Not only did I love it the second time around, I think I liked it even.As much as I don t like to compare authors so much, I can t help but describe this as Rushdie Much to my delight, this held up very strong on the second read Before I re read it, I browsed through some of the reviews others had written on this site, and it made me nervous maybe I just loved this book so much because I was young and it s about youth, so I just connected to it out of a common vim and vigor.Not the case.Not only did I love it the second time around, I think I liked it even.As much as I don t like to compare authors so much, I can t help but describe this as Rushdie meets McEwan It s got the scope of Rushdie ensemble cast, intersecting story lines, his dark humor and his attention to politics As far as McEwan, the novel is based around singular events and the way they effect the group of people, and it s got that same sort of darkness much like McEwan, Coe isn t afraid to let bad things happen to his characters.The lead in is a bit confusing, but it starts off with two youngsters in the year 2000 something talking about the history of how their parents know each other The girl tells the story she knows which is basically the entire book It tells of four young men in grade school in England who are close friends Ben Trotter, Phillip Chase, Doug Anderton Sean Harding Ben Trotter and his family are the focus point for most of the story, but it rotates through each of the characters, as well as a few peripherals their parents, their teachers, their significant others It takes us through illicit affairs, politics the IRA, socialists, unions, riots, terrorism , school rivalries, school crushes, and.The short of it is that this is a coming of age story, but it s not just that as I said, the scope of this is pretty huge, and even though character development is the driving force behind the story, there s just so much going on overall, though not enough to be distracting or confusing he s bested Rushdie in that regard, but his scope is also a littlefocused.Coe does a really wonderful job at developing his characters, even the ones who don t get a long time to narrate to us Someone on this site said they didn t care about the characters, but I can t imagine that Benjamin in particular is easy to relate to, with his obsessive crush on the most popular girl in school, yearnings to be a writer, confusion about politics and love of music.Coe also has a fantastic sense of humor it s very diverse, ranging from the dark to the slapstick Some of the most memorable moments come from it.The only thing that irked me on this read was the end of the story section It s basically stream of consciousness from Benjamin s point of view, so there are no pauses, just one long run on sentence It s a little exhausting to read.Otherwise, I fell in love with this book all over again Great guy wishes groovy chick to write, into Tull, Pink Floyd, 17 28 Wanted girl friend, any age, but 4 ft 10 in or under, all letters answered Guy, 18, cat lover, seeks London chick, into Sabbath Only Freaks please Freaky Guy 20 wants crazy chick 16 for love Into Quo and Zep Leeds boy with scooter, looks OK, seeks girlfriend 17 21 for discos, concerts Photo appreciated Note the above are quotations from genuine lonely hearts advertisements in Sounds 1973 Why the hell had I nGreat guy wishes groovy chick to write, into Tull, Pink Floyd, 17 28 Wanted girl friend, any age, but 4 ft 10 in or under, all letters answered Guy, 18, cat lover, seeks London chick, into Sabbath Only Freaks please Freaky Guy 20 wants crazy chick 16 for love Into Quo and Zep Leeds boy with scooter, looks OK, seeks girlfriend 17 21 for discos, concerts Photo appreciated Note the above are quotations from genuine lonely hearts advertisements in Sounds 1973 Why the hell had I not read any of Jonathan Coe s books earlier It s totally my fault of course, because friends and people with similar interests in literature to mine had already told me, ages ago, that I d love him, and I suppose I did believe them, but I couldn t imagine he would be of the mindblowing kind, which it seems he absolutely is In this book Jonathan Coe writes as if he was always destined to become an author he s that talented The Rotters Club is a novel about England in the 70s under the shadow of the IRA, the miners strike and power cuts, socialists and far right populists, youth school rivalries within an environment of amalign, inexorable divisivenessand teenage angst, blue and white collars and social class differences and music, music, MUSIC there s A LOT of music in this book, which I can never resist anyway, but the really cool thing about Jonathan Coe as if his being a fantastic author isn t enough already is that he knows what he s talking about That was the age of punk rock and prog rock gods wannabes, eager topush back the boundaries of the three chord songand The Rotters Club nails it, like it nails any issue that it deals with really.Because, mind you this is a book with a lot of music not about music The Rotters Club works as a brilliant politically charged, opinionated and spot on again he knows his stuff satirical commentary on the rebellious and existential 70s It s also very moving, romantic, full of emotionmy paragon, callipygic enchantress, apogee of all that is pulchritudinous in this misbegotten, maculate world, will the truculent forces of peripeteia ever vouchsafe us the sweet euphoria of sybaritic congressTop this all up with a FANTASTIC sense of humour too This is one entertaining book with numerous laugh out loud elegantly funny moments, that get stuck in your head.I mean, I can t stop giggling The boys attempted to form an art rock band, which had to have a Tolkienesque name of course Following some quite serious and heavy brainstorming,Minas Tirithwas ditched in favour ofGandalf s Pikestaff, only to be ditched altogether as a project THE SAME DAY IT WAS FORMED, in favour of the punk orientedThe Maws of Doomband Obviously, that was all put down on paper, because the band would change music progression isn t that what raw teenage angst is all about I m convinced And come on That chat on the Cold War.Why is Berlin divided, anyway Philip asked I ve always wondered that I don t know I suppose there s a river through the middle of it, isn t there Like the Thames I expect it s the Danube or something I thought it was something to do with the Cold War MaybeWhat s it all about, though, the Cold War I mean, why s it called the Cold War in the first place Well, said Benjamin, struggling to raise some interest in this topic, I expect it is very cold in Berlin, isn t it But it s all to do with America and Russia, I thought Well it s definitely cold in Russia Everybody knows that And why s it called Watergate What s President Nixon supposed to have done I don t knowTo sum up, The Rotters Club is an extremely RICH reading experience Jonathan Coe plays with words like it s not even a big deal Just when you think you finally get and enjoy the writing style and the narrative, BAM he throws at you a river of screaming poetry that is both delicate and intense and leaves you stunned basically Ace The phrase that jumps to mind, critically, as I sit to compose a response to this novel is Jack of all trades, master of none The Rotter s Club does many things pretty well smooth read, engrossing enough plot, interesting enough characters, fine evocation of time period 1970s and place Birmingham , political social commentary observation on class and race in that place and time so pivotal, in retrospect, to those of us of that generation, in forming today s horror show I also personally The phrase that jumps to mind, critically, as I sit to compose a response to this novel is Jack of all trades, master of none The Rotter s Club does many things pretty well smooth read, engrossing enough plot, interesting enough characters, fine evocation of time period 1970s and place Birmingham , political social commentary observation on class and race in that place and time so pivotal, in retrospect, to those of us of that generation, in forming today s horror show I also personally loved the wittiness of some of the novel s games particularly the puns of Lois and Ben s names , the frame around the story, and the re occurring Hatfield and the North motif a favorite band of mine Unfortunately the sum of these parts fails to be greater than a general feeling of super competentcy, but nothing, disappointingly, approaching shoutaboutability I suppose the epic somehow lacked that single monolithic experiment, set piece, character, or super original idea that would have put it over for me.Will I read the sequel Sure, if I can find a used copy like I did of this one I sort of wish I had a copy now as the story and characters do grow on one I got used to it, but still not shouting about it My second reading of The Rotters club has made me notice so many little things I had somehow missed the first time round This is Coe at his sharpest, unveiling inconvenient sides of England the elitism, the socialStratification, the racism, the destruction of welfare state under Thatcher, the war conducted against trade unions the dark side of a country I have come to love so much, told by characters who stick with the reader long after the novel has been finished and put back in the shelf My second reading of The Rotters club has made me notice so many little things I had somehow missed the first time round This is Coe at his sharpest, unveiling inconvenient sides of England the elitism, the socialStratification, the racism, the destruction of welfare state under Thatcher, the war conducted against trade unions the dark side of a country I have come to love so much, told by characters who stick with the reader long after the novel has been finished and put back in the shelf More of this Coe, we need it, nowthan ever The maws of doom are uncomfortably close Jonathan Coe s a jolly nice chap, and his articles on various topics are interesting, above all his long campaign championing B.S.Johnson, which I remember him launching in The Spectator in 1991, culminating in the superb biography So it s a shame that I have to admit I ve never thought much of his own fiction, which always seems to be quite bland, cliched prose stapled together with awkward attempts at Johnsonian formal experimentalism, which only emphasise how far he s falling short of his he Jonathan Coe s a jolly nice chap, and his articles on various topics are interesting, above all his long campaign championing B.S.Johnson, which I remember him launching in The Spectator in 1991, culminating in the superb biography So it s a shame that I have to admit I ve never thought much of his own fiction, which always seems to be quite bland, cliched prose stapled together with awkward attempts at Johnsonian formal experimentalism, which only emphasise how far he s falling short of his hero.This particular tale of 70s adolescence has a bunch of unmemorable teenagers taking themselves very seriously whilst surrounded by adults who have walked out of an ITV sitcom from that era The fragments of juvenilia are painful, the Serious Issues are dealt with in scenes that belong in a Scene drama from the same period, and I m not even sure the references don t have a few anachronisms was Kalashnikov a term that meant anything to British youth, until the advent of Rambo films 10 years later I grew up in Redditch, just off the edge of the central world of this book beyond Barnt Green on the train , my dad taught at a school in Kings Norton, but not a toffs academy like King William Edward One of many details of life at ordinary Birmingham comprehensives that is missing in this world staff members were expected to drive Leyland made cars and display them on the premises, to show their support of local industry Yes, Buy British was a thing, that s how he had a terrible old Marina, until he crashed it The management union committees still existed in some form right up to the final demise of Rover Group, because I overheard a bunch of union guys grumbling about some idiot manager they had to deal with, on a train back home stopping at Longbridge, circa 2003 Buddha of Suburbia did the 70s thing better, not least because its leads got out of education by about the 3rd chapter This is a club for cleverclogs who never truly wander off the conveyor belt, at least not in this instalment