number11

Jonathan Coe‘s novels apparently sell better in France. Coe claims that British people can see how current politics is impacting on the country every day in the papers and on TV rather than look for it in his novels. Ignoring his rather dubious grammar, I would argue that Coe is one of those English writers who, frankly, has got a bit stale. To be fair I have not read his last one Expo 58, let alone his new one Number 11, though I expect I will read both sooner or later. I thought What a Carve-Up! a brilliant satire on Thatcherism and I would have thought you would have to be British or have a detailed knowledge of things British to fully understand what he was getting at. However, his later works have been readable and no doubt give an interesting picture of Britain from a white middle-class perspective but I do not think that they offer any great insights nor are they great works. Helena Chadderton, a university lecturer in French says in the article Coe represents what the French expect from across the channel: storytelling, a mixture of the personal and the political, and that famous British humour. I would have thought many British people would look for that, too, but I am not sure that Coe is the first author they would go to find that. Indeed, for many British people, they would probably expect to find it on TV rather than in books. Of course, the whole article is more likely to be to drum up a bit of publicity for his new book.