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Number 11

REVIEW Number 11

This is a novel about the hundreds of tiny connections between the public and private worlds and how they affect us allIt's about the legacy of war and the end of i. Jonathan Coe is always entertaining so it is no surprise that this book is a page turner It is also an incisive satire that says much about the strangeness and ineuality at the heart of modern Britain This is a seuel to his earlier book What a Carve Up which was part satire of Thatcherite values and part homage to 50s and 60s British film comedies In the earlier book the Winshaw family caricatured many of the venal aspects of the society of the day in the same way as the D'Ascoynes in Kind Hearts and Coronets and met the same fate This book has a complicated structure almost a loosely linked set of five novellas exploring a similar set of characters who are effectively heirs of the original Winshaws and meting out the same form of justice to them The situations Coe places them in allow him to explore aspects of modern society that did not exist at the time of the previous book such as social media reality TV the abuse of migrant workers the way police procedure is influenced by the media and the lives and building aspirations of London's super rich elite He also introduces a further set of film references notably uatermass and the Pit and What a Whopper which was an apparently risible seuel to the What a Carve Up film involving the Loch Ness Monster This makes for a very enjoyable read but it has its flaws Some of the comedy is just too blunt and simplistic the ending seems very silly in a way that was only just about forgiveable because of the uatermass reference and the characters are often superficial and symbolic for example the one legged black lesbian on benefits who is constructed as a perfect tabloid target but as Coe himself in a postscript that explains many of the inspirations advertised as an exclusive for the Waterstones paperback edition this book was partly intended as a tribute to the late David Nobbs and in that he has undoubtedly succeeded

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NnocenceIt's about how comedy and politics are battling it out and comedy might have wonIt's about how 140 characters can make fools of us allIt's about living in a. What the what the what now I loved the Jonathan Coe of What a Carve Up and The Rotters Club but this is as far from that intelligent warm humour as you may find yourself on a misty winter's night in Chelsea I can't begin to describe what this book is But it is a mess Maybe Coe was under pressure to produce a book by Penguin and found six notebooks in his drawers and gaffa taped them together and handed it in to his editor That is about as plausible as the tale he tries to tell in this book and the ridiculous ending with a complete change of tone halfway through Mismatched stories characters with a half hearted attempt at modern satire of Austerity Britain in which we find ourselves Please Mr Coe find yourself again I miss your writing

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City where bankers need cinemas in their basements and others need food banks down the streetIt is Jonathan Coe doing what he does best ­ showing us how we live n. This was truly fantastic I'd forgotten uite how much I love Jonathan Coe's writing Lannes (1769-1809) maréchal de Napoléon : Colloque Maisons-Laffitte, 18 mars 2017 others need food banks down the streetIt is Jonathan Coe doing what he does best ­ showing us how we live n. This was truly fantastic I'd forgotten uite how much I love Jonathan Coe's writing


10 thoughts on “Number 11

  1. says:

    Jonathan Coe is always entertaining so it is no surprise that this book is a page turner It is also an incisive satire that says much about the strangeness and ineuality at the heart of modern Britain This is a seuel to his earlier book What a Carve Up which was part satire of Thatcherite values and part homage to 50s and 60s British film comedies In the earlier book the Winshaw family caricatured many of the venal aspects of the society of the day in the same way as the D'Ascoynes in Kind Hearts and Coronets and met the same fate This book has a complicated structure almost a loosely linked set of five novellas exploring a similar set of characters who are effectively heirs of the original Winshaws and meting out the same form of justice to them The situations Coe places them in allow him to explore aspects of modern society that did not exist at the time of the previous book such as social media reality TV the abuse of migrant workers the way police procedure is influenced by the media and the lives and building aspirations of London's super rich elite He also introduces a further set of film references notably uatermass and the Pit and What a Whopper which was an apparently risible seuel to the What a Carve Up film involving the Loch Ness Monster This makes for a very enjoyable read but it has its flaws Some of the comedy is just too blunt and simplistic the ending seems very silly in a way that was only just about forgiveable because of the uatermass reference and the characters are often superficial and symbolic for example the one legged black lesbian on benefits who is constructed as a perfect tabloid target but as Coe himself in a postscript that explains many of the inspirations advertised as an exclusive for the Waterstones paperback edition this book was partly intended as a tribute to the late David Nobbs and in that he has undoubtedly succeeded


  2. says:

    I was about fifty pages into this book before I realised it was an unexpected seuel to What a Carve Up Jonathan Coe’s acclaimed 1994 novel satirising the Thatcher years in Britain which was surprising as I always assumed that book was a standalone Having read What a Carve Up I can tell you that you needn’t have read it before picking up Number 11 and even Coe himself seems to be subtly describing this book as “Seuels which are not really seuels Seuels where the relationship to the original is obliue slippery” p152 Which is accurate The uote above is in reference to What a Whopper a real 1962 Sid James film that loosely connected to the real 1961 Sid James film What a Carve Up I’ll try to keep the exclamation marks to a minimum here on out but I also really liked Number 11 There isn’t much of a plot It’s basically an overview of 21st century Britain Rachel a young Oxford graduate who can’t find work becomes the private tutor to the children of an obscenely wealthy banker Her friend Alison becomes the victim of one of the few surviving Winshaw family members Josephine Winshaw Eaves whose online right wing column lands her in jail Alison’s mum Val a one hit wonder tries to rejuvenate her singing career with a stint on a “reality” show akin to “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” Rachel’s former teacher Laura is studying the Loch Ness Monster for an academic thesis; an intellectual copper called PC Nathan Pilbeam is investigating a series of murders involving comedians; and something terrible has been awakened deep underneath London The title pops up throughout There’s a Number 11 bus a Number 11 table the massive basement being dug by Rachel’s rich employers is 11 storeys deep and the official residence of the Chancellor of the Excheuer is Number 11 Downing Street and the story is heavily focused on finance and the economy You could if you suint even see it as the Roman numeral for “2” as in the second book in the Winshaw series Number 11 could be a reference for any or all of the above Coe’s previous novel slightly informs the structure of this novel It too is a satire aimed at conservative politics the targets are either Winshaws or connected to the family in some way there’s another chap obsessed with a movie this time it’s Laura’s husband Tim searching for a short pre war German film called The Crystal Garden and there are references to another Sid James movie Some of the digressions feel a bit tenuous in terms of the supposed satire like what does obsessing over The Crystal Garden have to do with the state of Britain today? Maybe something to do with nostalgia informing contemporary politicsthe national mood ? And it didn’t need the Whopper movie references either as they didn’t really add much or were that interesting I suppose you could also say some of the targets reality TV Twitter hate mobs are obvious and that Coe doesn’t have anything original to say about them but I’m really just reaching to figure out for myself why I didn’t totally love this book as opposed to just enjoying it a lot Because most of the book is really really excellent It’s witty and unpredictable and compelling it effectively mixes together disparate elements like realistic drama with comedic farce meaningless tragedy astute political commentary and unexpected horror like briefly in The Black Tower opening chapter and later in the final act I really enjoyed the irreverent tone at times I felt like I was reading part of a lost Terry Pratchett’s City Watch story with the antics of the clownish DCI Capes who fruitlessly tries to get others to call him “The Caped Crusader” and the vastly sober PC Pilbeam and his chaste love for ultra religious school teacher Lucinda Givings It’s all wrapped up in Coe’s smooth confident prose making sure that it’s never a chore to read I liked the glimpses into the lives of the super wealthy The character portraits of Sir Gilbert’s demented wife Madiana and the perpetually furious newspaper magnate Sir Peter were fun even if the accuracy of London properties being bought as investments and then left empty is both a depressing reality and an absurd state of affairs Coe cleverly contrasts the ghostly ualities of both the super wealthy and the poor in their absences to the sight of the general public I can’t really blame Coe for opting for a fantastical ending which is at odds with everything preceding it because I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to come up with solutions for the current state of things and at least he made it an entertaining finale taking things into an unexpected but not unwelcome as I’m a fan of the genre horror direction Maybe because Number 11 was shorter than the previous Winshaw book and focused maybe because this book is contemporary and relevant maybe Coe’s just become a better writer and storyteller in the 20 years since the last Winshaw book and this whatever the reasons I had a blast with Number 11 Though it might not be the most successful satire this is a very entertaining well written and imaginative novel brilliantly capturing a snapshot of early 21st century Britain


  3. says:

    Farce treats the improbable as probable the impossible as possible George Pierce BakerTrouble is it seems that nothing is impossible;Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary I went online to check the date of that appalling incident of the Chinese cockle pickers who died in Morecambe Bay it does play a role in Number 11 and found that someone wants to make it into a musicalAnd while a lot of the British press have gone into meltdown over the fact that a woman shaped human is now leading the country this particular piece of news disappeared Source NHS ended 2015 with the largest deficit in its history – three times last year’s We seem to be living in a post farce ageSo I have to admire Jonathan Coe for still having a go And at the same time posing some very pertinent uestions about how laughter at public figures might just remove some of the fully justified rage that we ought to feel at their callous disregard for the people whose interests they are supposed to represent And writing a damned enjoyable book at the same time


  4. says:

    This is a funny and mildly disturbing state of England and coming of age novel I’d only read one previous book by Coe Expo 58 an unrepresentative 1950s set comedy so this is a better example of his usual pattern multiple loosely linked storylines Here the theme is the absurdity of modern culture encompassing many aspects unjust wars the excesses of the uber rich the obsession with celebrity and suspicion and exclusion of those who are different from us The number 11 keeps popping up tooMy favorite parts were a Survivor type reality television show and a laughably over the top prize ceremony banuet At times I had trouble fitting all the pieces together in my mind which reduced the impact but overall it works The biting critiue never detracts from the characterization and the bizarre ending with its dip into fantasy is a delightful little jolt As Blair has mentioned there’s a brief reference to What a Carve Up that suggests this is a seuel but no knowledge of the previous book is necessaryInteresting to see that the US edition has been given a subtitle Or Tales That Witness MadnessRelated reading• Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy London’s uber rich• Capital by John Lanchester a kaleidoscopic state of England novel• Lost for Words by Edward St Aubyn comic discussion of a prize race


  5. says:

    I felt so despondent when I finished this book that I literally lay on my bed in the dark in a state of what I can only describe as existential despair thinking well what do I do now? That was how much I enjoyed it so much that I felt distraught when I knew it was overCompletely addictive – and what a fantastic return to form after the lacklustre Expo 58 I read this at breakneck speed barely able to tear myself away from it It tells interconnected stories that revolve around two women Rachel and Alison childhood friends whose lives go in very different directions after what might be a life changing encounter with the 'Mad Bird Woman' when they're both ten years old It's also a very loose seuel to Coe's What a Carve Up and makes numerous callbacks to that novel but you don't need to have read What a Carve Up to enjoy it Politicalsocial commentary mingles with satire mystery and a touch of horror My favourite section was 'The Crystal Garden' which tells of a man's obsessive search for a magical film he watched as a boy


  6. says:

    What the what the what now? I loved the Jonathan Coe of What a Carve Up and The Rotters Club but this is as far from that intelligent warm humour as you may find yourself on a misty winter's night in Chelsea I can't begin to describe what this book is But it is a mess Maybe Coe was under pressure to produce a book by Penguin and found six notebooks in his drawers and gaffa taped them together and handed it in to his editor? That is about as plausible as the tale he tries to tell in this book and the ridiculous ending with a complete change of tone halfway through Mismatched stories characters with a half hearted attempt at modern satire of Austerity Britain in which we find ourselves Please Mr Coe find yourself again I miss your writing


  7. says:

    This book is a fierce criticism of modern society with its absurdity It's tragic and comic at the same timeIn the short stories that come up with the books Coe faces different themes and heats different literary genres It's however a uick reading


  8. says:

    This was truly fantastic I'd forgotten uite how much I love Jonathan Coe's writing


  9. says:

    A follow up to What a Carve Up both In style a social satire on the times mixed with levels of farce and ending with a horror B movie style mass murder of the guilty; In characters with the key villains all being linked in some ways to the legacy of the third generation Winshaw's the daughter of Hilary a online columnist in Hilary's tradition Mark's wife who has turned his arms firm into a profit making aggressively entrepreneurial arms clearance business the head of an arts prize set up in Roderick's honour and which awards a prize each year to the best other prize a Lord who is following on in Henry's work to dismantle the NHS and further to put a monetary value on all aspects not just of health but now of arts and life the director of a food firm which is the largest part of Dorothy's food conglomerate an investment banker colleague of Thomas who took the bank into derivative speculation; And even the way in which many of the other characters find their lives and the lives of those they care for negatively impacted by the greed and amorality of the villains In this case the two main protagonists are two childhood friends Rachel and Alison Rachel is initially successful studying at Oxford but ends up as a private tutor to the children of a super rich investment banker and his foreign wife and living in their Knighsbridge mansion being excavated for an eleven floor basement which ends up becoming the killer spiders' lair Alison it becomes clear is a right wing cliche a black one legged lesbian living on benefits and exposed as a benefits scrounger by Hilary's daughter Issues satirised in the book include Food banksThe super rich and their basementsReality TV Alison's mother a faded ex pop star is lured on to one at short noticeLeft wing stand up comics and their role as a safety valve preventing actual action against the blatant unfairness of what they rail against leading in a sub plot to an online activist who becomes a serial murderer of themThe financial measures used by the NHS to judge of treatments can be fundedChinese immigrant workersThe increasing focus of the police on high profile cases featuring media stars and on their own media coverageAusterityThe bile of online commentators The book can be uneven at times and features lengthy digressions which do not entirely fit an attempt to shoe horn in the death of Dr David Kelly and an odd story about a man obsessed with finding a short film he saw in the 1960s and associates with the stability of his childhood and which after his death causes his wife to be unsentimental with their son so that he does not suffer from the same lethargic nostalgia when he is older Overall though a very enjoyable read


  10. says:

    What’s happened to Jonathan Coe? Did his publisher insist he write another book and Coe shrugged his shoulders and said “Oh if I must”? Or has he simply run out of inventive steam? This book reprises many of the themes that made his previous novels so entertaining and incisive biting satires on all the evils of modern life – greed capitalism political ambition – and here admittedly he comes up to date and adds a few – reality TV bullying on social media and so on So the satire is still there but it’s grown so tired Or perhaps Coe has grown so tired Cartoonish characters lazy writing obvious targets attacked without a shred of subtlety and an ending that descends into absurdity Tedious and disappointing


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