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What a Carve Up! Paperback – 19 May 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (19 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141033290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141033297
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,874 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

Review

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 most recent novel is The Rain Before It Falls. He is also the author of 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 Rotter's Club, winner of the Everyman Wodehouse Prize and The Closed Circle. He has also published a biography of the novelist B.S. Johnson, which won the Orwell prize in 2005. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Backdrifter on 28 July 2004
Format: Paperback
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
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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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 July 2000
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Nov 1999
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By silvershakespeare on 12 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback
I had no expectations of this book and was unfamiliar with the author or the plot before I read it, which helped because obviously I had no preconceptions and as a result the message hit me full force. The plot involving the Winshaws, along with their differing and far reaching effects, served as an 'everyman' portrait of the greedy and privileged Tory during the Thatcher era and displayed how by domination these people changed the face of Britain. Being slightly too young to remember this era in much detail, I was more affected by how the book once again becomes relevant now, during the recession caused by much the same thinking - huge wealth, overproduction, running risks with the livelihood of others, corrupt government. So for this reason alone it is well worth a read because it has a resonance now that shows we haven't really come that far, but also we are not the first generation to experience these issues.

The writing is good; I didn't notice that the prose was amazing or that it was rubbish so it was just there to move the plot along, which is fine. I did find, however, that the section dealing with Michael's girlfriend and her illness very well written and handled sensitively without too much preaching. He just told it as it was and the events spoke for themselves. Up until this point I must say I didn't really have much interest in Michael lazing about wondering why he was put on the planet and the obsession with the film, although the point, got a bit tedious throughout this.

The ending is hard to review because it was so obviously supposed to be silly and there is no point being annoyed with it on that basis.
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