Book: The Rotters’ Club
Author: Jonathan Coe
Rating: * * *
The Rotters’ Club follows the lives of three teenagers as they battle their hormones and prog rock fetishes against the backdrop of the strikes, IRA bombs and political unrest of the 1970s. This relatively solid premise is not, however, well reflected in the somewhat flimsy prose that Jonathan Coe employs.
The descriptions of the 1970s are (I’m told) incredibly realistic. It is difficult to believe that Britain was once subject to routine power cuts and that the manufacturing industry was brought to its knees by socialists and trade unions. It all sounds very exciting, and for a generation who was born into the greed and anxiety of the late 1980s, impossibly idealistic.
His tendency towards sentimentality and cliché mar the well-developed sense of humour for which he is well known. As a result, while Ben Trotter’s overblown descriptions of his love for Cicely, or the description of his terror at forgetting his swimming trunks and being forced to swim naked in front of his classmates are great vignettes within the novel, Coe’s treatment of some of the themes is jarringly heavy-handed.