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Expo 58

Expo 58 [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Coe
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Expo 58 - Good-looking girls and sinister spies: a naive Englishman at loose in Europe in Jonathan Coe's brilliant comic novel

London, 1958: unassuming civil servant Thomas Foley is plucked from his desk at the Central Office of Information and sent on a six-month trip to Brussels. His task: to keep an eye on The Brittania, a brand new pub which will form the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 - the biggest World's Fair of the century, and the first to be held since the Second World War.

As soon as he arrives at the site, Thomas feels that he has escaped a repressed, backward-looking country and fallen headlong into an era of modernity and optimism. He is equally bewitched by the surreal, gigantic Atomium, which stands at the heart of this brave new world, and by Anneke, the lovely Flemish hostess who meets him off his plane. But Thomas's new-found sense of freedom comes at a price: the Cold War is at its height, the mischievous Belgians have placed the American and Soviet pavilions right next to each other - and why is he being followed everywhere by two mysterious emissaries of the British Secret Service? Expo 58 may represent a glittering future, both for Europe and for Thomas himself, but he will soon be forced to decide where his public and private loyaties really lie.

For fans of Jonathan Coe's classic comic bestsellers What a Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club, this hilarious new novel, which is set in the Mad Men period of the mid 50s, will also be loved by readers of Nick Hornby, William Boyd and Ian McEwan.

'Coe has huge powers of observation and enormous literary panache' Sunday Times

'No one marries formal ingenuity with inclusiveness of tone more elegantly' Time Out

'Coe is among the handful of novelists who can tell us something about the temper of our times' Observer

'Thank goodness for Jonathan Coe, who records what Britain has lost in the past thirty years in his elegiac fiction' Scotland on Sunday

Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. Expo 58 is his tenth novel. The previous nine are all available in Penguin: The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love, The Dwarves of Death, What a Carve Up! (which won the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), The House of Sleep (which won the 1998 Prix Medicis Etranger), The Rotters' Club (winner of the Everyman Wodehouse Prize), The Closed Circle, The Rain Before It Falls and The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. His biography of the novelist B.S. Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, won the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction book of the year.

About the Author

Jonathan Coe is the author of The Winshaw Legacy and nine other novels. His many prizes include the Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 928 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 Sep 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,886 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. His novels include The Rotters' Club, The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love, The Dwarves of Death and What a Carve Up!, which won the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger. His latest novel is The Rain Before it Falls (Penguin, 2007).

The House of Sleep won the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Award for 1997.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expo 58 14 Dec 2013
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Thomas Foley is a quiet man, working industriously in his role at the Central Office of Information in Baker Street. When he is seconded to be `the man on the spot' at the British Exhibition at the World's Fair in Belgium in 1958 because his mother is Belgian and his father ran a pub (a pivotal fixture at the British Exhibition), he is a bit dumbfounded. Particularly as he has a wife and a new baby.

This is the first book by this author that I have read, and I had no real idea what to expect; it was the premise of the book which caught my attention initially. I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it had wit, humour, sadness, and captured in a delightfully off-kilter way a slice of life of 1958 that I never knew anything about. The main character Thomas is a man who seems always slightly out of focus with the rest of the world, and the surprises that he finds in his new temporary life in Belgium are wonderfully laid out for the reader. Definitely recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great period story and fascinating setting 6 Jan 2014
By K. J. Noyes TOP 500 REVIEWER
I've never read any Jonathan Coe before, but was attracted by the unusual cover and the plot, and then thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

It really felt like 1958. Great period detail, could picture the clothes, the Expo, the attitudes.

In a World Fair year, Brussels is playing host to 'Expo 58', a large-scale international fair and show that offers countries chance to demonstrate (and show off in a time of Cold War) their technological and cultural prowess.

Part of Britain's exhibit is a pub, and with little time to finish preparations, lowly copywriter Thomas Foley is drafted in to supervise the pub exhibit, leaving behind his new wife and baby daughter.

The story follows his life in Brussels, as he embraces bachelor life, meets a charming young Expo hostess, manoeuvres his way through possible (Cold War) spy scenarios and tries to decide if his married life is really the life he wants.

I really felt for the wife, Sylvia, left at home 'holding the baby', with no choice but to let her husband leave her to the mundane chores of home, reading his occasional letters and reason between the lines. It felt like a realistic portrait of domestic life of the 1950s housewife.

The office scenes were funny, Thomas's superiors comic creations that pop up with requests that grow increasingly more intrusive and morally unsound.

Thomas is sometimes unsympathetic (especially if you sympathise strongly with Sylvia) but is at heart a good man, and his adventures are great to follow. The Expo is a wonderful setting and one I can almost picture.

A great period piece, and I loved the fact that we see past the Expo into Thomas's later life as he lives with the choices he made. Very moving.

Definitely makes me want to read more by the author - this is witty, full of detail and a great story about choices, responsibility and Salt 'n Shake pub snacks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun, Entertaining Read 27 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I must admit that this is only the second Jonathan Coe novel I have ever read, the other being 'The Rain Before it Falls'. What I feel in all honesty I should immediately point out that whilst writing this the publisher is currently touting this as some sort of comedy thriller. I would have to disagree with classing this as a thriller, this is a spy caper as such and in the main is quite comical.

Thomas Foley, who works for the Central Office of Information is given a chance to go abroad to Brussels, and be part of the team at Expo 58. His job is one that isn't that particularly onerous, the British theme pub at the event is owned and being run by a brewery, but it is thought that it is probably better if a civil servant is on hand in case of any problems. Deciding to leave his wife and baby daughter at home, Foley plans to do the stint at the Expo by himself. Even before he has started though he finds himself being approached by the Security Services and interviewed.

Thus the story is very funny, Foley naive and really a man all abroad, getting caught up in the world of the Spooks and women, and this works well. Where this starts to unravel though is the latter part. The novel tries to become something a bit more serious, which jars with what has gone before, and as he thus becomes more worldly as it were it is then disconcerting to see him just as naive as at the beginning.

Although this has quite a poignant ending it is ultimately let down due to the more serious latter parts. If this had been just kept as a comedy it would have been that bit better. A fun, and entertaining read this isn't as good as it could have been. It is perfectly okay to sit down and relax with, but don't expect any thriller as such, this is an undemanding read that should entertain you alright, and make you laugh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Jonathan Coe's early books, What a Carve Up, and the Rotters Club/The Closed Circle. I've read his more recent releases eagerly and have tended to enjoy them but feel a bit underwhelmed, so I picked this up with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Would this be back to Coe's earlier standard?

The subject of this novel is an unusual one - a 1950s low-ranking Civil Servant, and the 1958 "Expo" held in Belgium. As a modern-day Government employee, the differences and the similarities between the main character's day job and mine made me smile. The world of the 1950s was beautifully recreated, and treated with a similar mix of fond nostalgia and cool-headed scrutiny. The knowing references (such as the woman encouraged to smoke during pregnancy as it's such a stressful time) were occasionally a little heavy-handed, but generally made me giggle. Coe is one of the few genuinely literary authors who can really do humour well.

Although the world of the civil service was a broadly familiar one to me, then the Expo was something completely new. I've seen pictures of the Atomium building that formed it's centrepiece, but didn't really know what it was, and had never heard of the titular event where countries from around the world came together for the first time since WW2. And now, I feel I know everything about it, from the opening speech to the design of each pavilion. Coe certainly seems to have done his research. It was fascinating to find out about this obscure piece of history. At the same time, the themes of European integration or separation, and conflict between Russia and the US seem oddly relevant to today's world.

The plot has two main strands.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Coe returns to form
Always loved his books although his last couple of novels have been a little disappointing. This, though, is a return to form. Read more
Published 1 month ago by serge672
1.0 out of 5 stars Expo 58
Purchased as gift for brother who visited Expo 58. Will have to wait until he says how authentic it is!
Published 1 month ago by brizoK9
5.0 out of 5 stars A deft lightness of touch..........
Coe is probably best known for The Rotters’ Club and What a Carve Up!, his satires of life in 1970s Britain and the Thatcher years respectively. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Roger Sharp
5.0 out of 5 stars des personnages tout en finesse
a good story, lovely characters, a good book for a french speaking reader who wants to improve his skills in english
Published 2 months ago by pascal deneve
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit whimsical but fun
Although Coe is fashionable I've never found his work as impressive as that of other contemporary British novelists (e.g. Barnes, MacEwan, Boyd, Amis ...). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard Condon à Bruxelles
4.0 out of 5 stars satirical comedy...
Expo 58 written by Jonathan Coe for me was a great read as we follow the main character namely Thomas Foley when he is sent to open a British pub in Brussels due to the Expo of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Petra "I love to read"
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
The first novel I read by Coe was the Rotters Club quite a few years ago. That was a five star book. I've read another few since then and they all including this merit four stars. Read more
Published 4 months ago by fivestarfrankie
5.0 out of 5 stars The life we choose to have, and to discard
This is a wonderful book, full of light and shade, farce and sorrow. The writing and the story often made me smile, depicting so wonderfully the era with gentle humour - cold war... Read more
Published 4 months ago by markr
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet comedy of manners
I am not quite sure how he does it, but Jonathan Coe's has managed to write a novel that both captures the very nature and feelings of the nineteen fifties in every line, yet at... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Neil Spurgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific good read
Neatly constructed, well-rounded, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny novel, set at the Belgian World's Fair of the summer of 1958. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Book Critic
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