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Middle England/ Jonathan Coe

Middle England by Jonathan Coe might end up as the definitive Brexit novel as it’s set from 2012 to the present day.

The author does not disguise his remain sympathies but he brings out well the various motives and rationale for voting either way and the destruction it wrought.

I first came across Jonathan Coe as his the Rotters Club was the first book discussed at a book club I launched some 14 years ago.

Sadly, one of my fellow members and co-founders passed away in January and there were many tributes to his eclectic reading at his memorial service I attended in Chelsea last Thursday.

One of the worst consequences of his passing is the sheer inability to contact him again (unless you believe in reincarnation which I don’t) and I so would have loved discussing with him this novel which is now the third in the the series charting the development of a group that were together at a Birmingham Public school.

The main character Ben Trotter is now 57 and he and his niece, a socialist academic, are the main personalities in this novel. Sophie is a remainer and married to Ian, a regular guy if unexciting driving instructor, who is a leaver. Ian’s mother is exactly the forthright Brexit type confused by PC who would vote leave. The differences between Ian and Sophie break up their marriage.

The novel starts at the Olympic ceremony in London, when the UK was far more at ease with itself, is in contract with the present imbroglio and impasse.

The political events unfurling serve as a back cloth as the stories of the characters are played out.

Sophie goes to Marseilles for a conference and on a cruise – this is particularly wittily observed.

Ben and his sister Lois move to France which gives the novel changes of location as it is set in Middle England (it’s refreshing that it’s not another London-based book).

The novel is perceptive, witty and well-researched but there are probably too many characters. Aside from the original Rotters, there are Ian, Ian’s Mother, Charlie (a black contemporary of Ben), Sophie and other characters who come and go.

Nonetheless, for those who seek an amusing, entertaining read, I would certainly recommend it.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts