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What a Carve Up! (Essential Penguin) [Paperback]

Jonathan Coe
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Feb 2001 Essential Penguin
'Big, hilarious, intricate, furious, moving' - Guardian Telling the stories of the wealthy Winshaw family, WHAT A CARVE UP! is a riveting social satire on the chattering and all-powerful upper classes.

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (22 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140294562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140294569
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 10.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 505,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


Big, hilarious, intricate, furious, moving (Guardian)

Probably the best English novelist of his generation (Nick Hornby)

Everything a novel ought to be: courageous, challenging, funny, sad - and peopled with a fine troupe of characters (The Times)

A sustained feat of humour, suspense and polemic, full of twists and ironies (Hilary Mantel Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. His other novels include A TOUCH OF LOVE and THE HOUSE OF SLEEP. THE ROTTER'S CLUB is forthcoming from Viking.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was moved, amused and enraged 28 July 2004
A real broad canvas of a novel that examines life under the Thatcher government in 1980s Britain, but it's not just a piece of political tub-thumping. The story plants its roots in the 1940s and uses the shenanigans of a particular influential family to illustrate the gradual dismantling and restructuring of British society and, above all, how the whims of this one group of people have far-reaching and devastating consequences for the average person on the street.
But I don't want to make it sound like a grim sociopolitical tract. At times, it's incredibly funny, and occasionally very touching. It's bookended by World War II and the Gulf War, but its examination of society probes like a laser beam into the minutiae of everyday things that affect us all, like public transport, healthcare, what we eat, how we think. Ultimately, it's a very human novel, superbly constructed and deserving of high praise.
And while I kind of see what previous reviewers mean about it not appealing to Tories or illustrating a class war, I should try to look beyond those issues because this isn't just a book about politics, it's about people - it's about us, and what we have allowed to happen to our society.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It ROCKS 19 July 2000
By A Customer
You simply HAVE to read it. It re-affirms that the novel is not dead as an art form (the structure is simply astounding), it proves that you can write a novel that is both politically astute and personally relevant - and it is further proof that an intelligent, sophisticated book can be funny enough to make you cry with laughter. It is an absolute masterpiece that I have bought for more than ten people, each one of whom has agreed that it is one of the best novels of the last ten years. Buy it and see why - you will not be disappointed
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The shifting fortunes of England between WWII and the early 1990s is the subject of this broad, complex, genre-blending, scathing, and hilarious satire from one of Britain's best contemporary writers. The framework for this is a fictitious Yorkshire family, whose tentacles extend deeply into politics, media, and the corporate world. The Winshaws include: Arms dealer Mark, MP Henry, widely-read columnist Hilary, investment banker Thomas, art dealer Roddy, industrial poultry executive Dorothy, and institutionalized Tabitha. Struggling novelist Michael Owen is commissioned by Tabitha to write the family history, and in the course of his research, Owen comes to realize that the Winshaws are "wretched, lying, thieving, self-advancing" elites whose actions embody the decline of the country.

In a dizzying feat of narrative, we learn of the Winshaws' private and public lives, how they all intersect, and especially how intellectually and morally shallow they each are. For example, via Hilary, we see the rise of Murdoch-style tabloid journalism, via Thomas the insider trading scandals, and via Henry, the trainwreck of Tory/Thatcherite economic policies. But as if this wasn't enough to keep the reader's attention, the story also works in a mystery involving two mysterious deaths, and a strange running congruence to the 1961 comedy film What A Carve Up! The result is a whirlwind of genres, including old-fashioned Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, P.G. Wodehouse-style comic novel, Evelyn Waugh-style social satire, and Christopher Hitchens-style political polemic, all of which combine for a thoroughly entertaining read.

Some may find fault in Coe's ripe and vivid portrayal of this family of scoundrels, but it's entirely in keeping with the satiric and farcical tone of the work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRILLIANT SATIRE ON EIGHTIES BRITAIN 16 Nov 1999
By A Customer
Jonathan Coe is a genius - producing an extremely complex yet accurate dissection of an epoch - while at the same time writing a book which is dazzlingly entertaining. The Winshaws, whose tentacles reach into every aspect of life in Thatcher's Britain, are mesmerisingly awful. And though they are clearly comic figures, and therefore larger than life, at the same time they are all too recognisable and real. Coe's success is in marshalling this cast of characters into an enormously wide-reaching narrative and hingeing it together in the figure of Michael Owen, who is commissioned to write the family history by mad Aunt Tabitha. He uncovers a writhing can of worms, and finds his own life profoundly affected by the activities of the ruthlessly selfish Winshaws. Other attempts to satirise 80s Britain seem pathetic in comparison with this. This is REAL satire - excoriating, totally realistic and wickedly, bitingly, funny.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great British writer 16 Mar 2001
By Sunfish
Jonathon Coe lives and works outside the London media scene - as such he is free to write his own stories, to his own agenda, without having to concern himself with the petty struggles that often upset the London publishing circles. With 'What a Carve Up!' he has managed to avoid the contemporary pitfalls that so engage Martin Amis and Julian Barnes and has instead created one of the most fascinatingly constructed books I have ever read. Coe has not agonised in print over his love of great writers, or publicised his literary angst over the direction literature should be taking. Instead he has got on with the craftsmanship of writing a truly great novel.
With a Dickensian approach to morality and integrity Coe sends up the perverse class system and corrupt establishment that he sees controlling Britain. He is never po-faced, and instead manages to suit the weapon to the danger, and unlike other passionate writers he never over-reacts, which means that the reader will appreciate his points without ever questioning their motives. With elements of Magical Realism as well as clear British canonical influences Coe has quite possibly written the best novel of the last ten years.
I look forward to his next.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, very different
Struggled with this at first but stick with it. This really grows on you and ended up really enjoying it
Published 1 month ago by Michael S. Denny
5.0 out of 5 stars It is genuinely funny, but still has characters we can believe in ...
A typical Jonathan Coe novel -which I mean as very high praise. It has a complex and intriguing plot, always under the author's control. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hebridean exile
5.0 out of 5 stars Mordant
Mordantly evokes an era which, if enjoyable for many at the time, has left painful scars on our country.
Published 2 months ago by MCP
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but Unconvincing
Jonathan Coe is a very gifted writer. He has a marvelous command of language. This is a very ambitious work which is in parts a thriller, a mystery, a comedy, a romance and a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paul Sloane
5.0 out of 5 stars Great novel
One of Coe's most interesting novels, veering between drama, comedy, farce and tragedy.A great range of characters with some trenchant satire and social commentary with... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Says Jim
3.0 out of 5 stars A caricature of evil.
This book is a fairly good read, but as a caricature, the awful Winshaw family is made up of one-dimensional characters. Read more
Published 10 months ago by GreenInk
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
This is my all time favourite novel. It is has a fantastic plot, both moving and funny set pieces, brilliant social commentary and highly detailed twists that makes it a joy to... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Wild Bill
2.0 out of 5 stars Probably not
The set-up of What A Carve Up!, Jonathan Coe's novel of 1994, is that Michael Owen, a minor novelist, has been hired to write a biography of the Winshaws, a family which (in Coe's... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Metropolitan Critic
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read
I can't wait to read more of this author's books .this one is funny ,sad, and and keeps you in suspense right to the end and what an ending! Fact or fiction ?
Published 15 months ago by kevin stannard
4.0 out of 5 stars Things That Go Bump In The Night
This is a rambling country-house of a novel with lots of hidden corridors, secret passages, layers of history and things that go bump in the night. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Roger Risborough
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