I am an avid reader as well as an artist and writer and these pages will share my thoughts on the books I have read and enjoyed (or not!) as well as reflections on my own adventures in literature. I hope you enjoy.
Middle England by Jonathan Coe
Middle England is one of those beasts that could perhaps be described as literary fiction in that it is not so much a story as a sequence of fictional events based on contemporary life. The ‘action’, if I can describe it as such, runs from the spring of 2010 to the autumn of 2018, and takes in Gordon Brown’s encounter with ‘that bigoted woman’, the David Cameron’s coalition government, the London riots, the murder of Joe Cox, Nigel Farage’s infamous ‘Breaking Point’ poster, and the London Olympics. The story, or should I say stories because there are more than one, are overlaid on to this quilt of events so we know what is going to happen. Most of us had the misfortune to live through it.
The primary character is Benjamin Trotter, a hero of Coe’s earlier novels, now peaceably living in a Shropshire mill house overlooking a stretch of the Severn and resigned to being ‘the best unpublished writer in the country’. His life is devoted to looking after his cantankerous widower father and continuing work on the great unfinished novel.
The other central character is Sophie, daughter of Lois, Benjamin’s sister. She’s a university lecturer in fine art and, at the beginning of the novel, embarks on a somewhat unlikely relationship with Ian, a driving instructor devoted to his dreadful mother and her right-wing political views.
While in many ways this is a novel embracing the European debate in the end the message is one of compromise and the very English tradition of not taking anything too seriously.
Middle England by Jonathan Coe is published by Viking.