22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, shame about the politics
I am a big fan of Coe's work and greatly enjoyed The Rotters' Club and have looked forward to this sequel for some time.
As a follow on to The Rotters' Club it does not generally disappoint and admirably ties up the loose ends created in the first novel (although at times Coe perhaps overuses coincidence to do this). The writing is, of course, excellent and there are...
Published on 1 Oct 2004 by Dr. P. M. Chambers
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many circles closed
I couldn't wait to get started on The Closed Circle - I've loved almost all of Jonathan Coe's books, particularly The Rotters Club, and with the TV adaptation still fresh in my mind... But oh what a disappointment. The whole thing became contrived beyond belief, coincidences here, shoe-horning contemporary issues in there (the obligatory road rage incident for example)...
Published on 13 April 2005
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Painfully honest,
While it has the same verve and pace as the first novel, the undoubted humour is undershot with a melancholic feeling for what might (or should) have been. In that sense, it is painfully honest.
At times, the efforts to convey the era come across as a little self-conscious (I fear this may be inevitable, since I had a similar feeling with Alan Hollinghurst's evocation of the 1980s in "The Line of Beauty") and there is something a little too slick about the way all the loose ends are tied up. That said, the writing is of too enjoyable a quality to be missed.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as engaging as I'd hoped,
This review is from: The Closed Circle (Hardcover)I'd been looking forward to this sequel to The Rotter's Club so much, and I'd have loved to give it five stars. Sadly, I can't, because although there's much to enjoy here, I feel Coe should redraft this---improve the structure, the pace, the plotting and make the novel more engaging for the reader. There's a brilliant piece at the end about Sean Harding, for example, but it's delivered as a deadening, 2nd hand narrative. The satire is heavy handed at times and anyone who hadn't already read the Rotter's Club might be put off completely. And I began to feel as if I couldn't care less about some of the characters, although Benjamin remains sympathetic------just. Although the ending was moving, it seemed tacked on to some rather turgid stuff. And there were some dreadfully contrived parts.Oh dear, what a let down from an accomplished writer. I can't help feeling that this kind of thing is the fault of publishers who seem to demand sequels, instead of allowing writers to progress at their own pace and make their own choices.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving sequel to 'The Rotters' Club',
If 'The Rotters' Club' dealt with the 1970s and the celebrated 'What a Carve Up!' the 1980s, 'The Closed Circle' deals with the Blair-years, opening in 1999 as the millennium takes place and the man who declared himself "a straight kind of guy" is in power. We meet Claire Newman, Benjamin Trotter, Douglas Anderton, & Phillip Chase and discover their place in the scheme of things now. The backdrop includes Longbridge (the 2000 protests- this book was published before the recent crisis which shows the Phoenix-Consortium to have been a failure, those heading it up there with 'Vile Victor'...?) and the rise to power of New Labour. Benjamin's younger brother Paul is now a New Labour MP who plays a major part in proceedings here and links to another new character Malvina, who the married brothers Benjamin and Paul find themselves pulled toward...
To say more would spoil the novel, 'The Closed Circle' is a brilliant book as it deals with the present climate of Blairism and addresses the Iraq War - something that saw a huge protest which was utterly ignored by the government. The book balances the personal and the political, but with the vote on the Iraq war becomes the former for one major character - which dictates the denoument of this book to a degree. Having lived in Birmingham as a student, I was extremely familiar with a lot of the locale- including the cafe in Waterstones which features heavily, though the book goes where it wants- Scandanvia, Wales, Berlin, London, France...(we can go anywhere these days...).
I loved the way the book detailed the changes in this country, some for the better- the presence of coffee-shops and mobiles seems integral and the description of a McDonalds that used to be a pub or the area in Birmingham that is now more Covent Garden than industial estate tells you a lot. But these changes seemed more negative- bittersweet wonder where you wonder if we're really happy as everything looks nice and we can buy mochas or cds or whatever (certain records like Beck's 'Mutations' & Mercury Rev's 'Deserters Songs' seemed to suit reading this book, melancholy is there...).
'The Closed Circle' contains some wonderful twists, to detail would spoil, and Coe structures the complex, messy lives of his characters brilliantly- we even find out what happened to...(?) The past looms at times, and Claire's sister Miriam who vanished is one of those looming shadows on the book, a much darker, less nostalgic affair than 'The Rotter's Club.' Readers of 'The Rotters Club' will note that at the end of this book elements found in the first-novel feature, as if this book is ending where that book came in - which suggests this is the conclusion of things (though of course, I'd love to meet these characters again at a later date...)
'The Closed Circle' is a novel I was just lost in, making sense alongside the TV-series 'Heimat' which is being screened at present and shows the personal lives of families and generations against a wider political backdrop. When you get to the end, you'll want to re-read both books, as scenes earlier will change with the revelations the book offers. 'The Closed Circle', in a wider sense, captures the zeitgeist - as did Martin Amis' 'Money', Coe's 'What a Carve Up!, Iain Banks' 'Complicity', Patrick Hamilton's 'Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky', Colin MacInnes 'Absolute Beginners', Hanif Kureshi's 'The Buddha of Suburbia', Irvine Welsh's 'Trainspotting' & several works by B.S. Johnson - a writer who Coe has recently published a biography of. I think 'The Closed Circle' is an important novel, a work that reflected the problems of recent years and whose characters lives made me feel better about my own hang-ups and woes. That it's a brilliantly written pageturner that engages and entertains, only makes it more obligatory reading...
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a forced follow up to the excellent Rotters Club???,
This review is from: The Closed Circle (Audio CD)This is the follow up to the excellent Rotters Club. I have long been a fan of Coe's work and 'What a Carve up?' definitely makes my top 10 book list of this century, but I think that this sequel to 'The Rotters Club' (recently serialised by on BBC2) is very readable but slightly disappointing.
We find our major characters Ben, Claire, Doug, Phillip, Paul and some peripheral characters from the Rotters Club as well as a few interesting new characters (an angst ridden goth/unlikely media advisor called Mavina provides an interesting love triangle between the Trotter brothers) grappling with the turn of the century and middle age.
Without giving too much of the plot away, they are all experiencing various marital, career and ethical issues with the political backdrop of a media conscious, disappointing and duplicitious Labour Government churning away around them.
Its an extremely readable and entertaining page turner but the major problem is that the book feels rushed. Rather than letting his characters behave and speak in subtle ways Coe seems in a hurry to tell us directly what they are thinking and feeling and some strings of the plot feel like they are knitted together clumsily which means that parts of the book read more like the Da Vinci code than his previous great works.
There are also a few really cringeworthy references to some era-defining TV programmes and presenters of the early noughties (Have I got News for You and Nigella Lawson's erotic cookery). Two-thirds of the way through the book and I wanted to physically punish Benjamin Trotter for his whimsy ways and his slightly perverse relationships with younger women and his past.
To sum up, it feels as if Coe (like Ben) was going through a difficult middle-age period when writing this claustrophobic novel. Unless you want to 'close the circle' that the Rotter's Club started, try out What a Carve up? instead and experience his pacy comic genius.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coe Does It Again!,
The frustrating loose ends left hanging in The Rotters' Club are meticulously tied up in The Closed Circle. Although at times the novel is a little predictable, Coe manages to elicit the odd surprise. With an intelligent blend of humour, political wrangling and heartfelt pathos, Coe has produced a novel worth talking about.
It is not essential to have read The Rotters' Club in order to enjoy The Closed Circle, but for a sense of unity I would recommend that one does. For those too stingy to buy The Closed Circle in hardback, then thank goodness your wait is almost over, for soon you shall be able to purchase it in paperback and spend a delightful few hours' perusal. If you consider the paperback still too dear - then I suggest you beg, borrow or steal a copy of The Closed Circle!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent followup to "The Rotters' Club",
This review is from: The Closed Circle (Hardcover)"Closed Circle" picks up the story of "The Rotters' Club" twenty years on and brings it to - not a conclusion, but a pause. The threads left hanging at the end of the previous story are taken forward and while some are tidied up, a number of uncertainties remain.
Some patterns repeat. Steve, for example, who was left in a sticky position at the end of the previous volume but who had (through hard work between the books) reestablished himself, is again down, this time because of the antics of a serial company wrecker. This is an example of "The Closed Circle" addressing some very up to date themes - the Iraq war, privatisation of Government services, racism - as "The Rotters' Club" did the politics of the 70s.
It is though difficult to compare the treatment of the two periods. With the 70s, a lot of effort went in to evoking a form of nostalgia (and a period based comedy) alongside the grimness. That just isn't possible with the later period, though Coe tries by having Claire, who has returned from Italy, muse on driving behaviour and the craze for meeting over coffee. This opens up a contrast between the mood of the two books, with the later one undoubtedly gloomier. I think it is a better book for that - more straightforward, more thoughtful. To judge by other reviews here, many will disagree with that.
4.0 out of 5 stars A good follow up to the Rotter's Club,
3.0 out of 5 stars A circle that would have been best left open?,
The same characters from TRC are now 25 years older, with kids of their own. There were some unanswered questions from the first book and this book pretty much ties up all of them.
Sadly, I think it would have been better if TCC had not been written, but it was and, having enjoyed TRC immensely, I felt compelled to read TCC.
Even though we find out what happened to all the characters, there are two problems for me.
Firstly, some of the plotting is, basically, silly. I see that other reviewers have criticised the unbelievable coincidences and I have to agree. Someone's in Berlin and someone else they know just happens to be in the same hotel? Really? And this is just one of the slightly more believable plot points.
Secondly, one of the reasons that the first book was so enjoyable for me is because I was a teenager in the 1970s so a lot of the book resonated particularly strongly with me. Maybe one of the reasons books about the teenage years, or books looking back at the teenage years, are so popular is because so many of us share the same experiences. Once we grow up and lead our lives our experiences become much more diverse. So it was with TCC. I could not longer really empathise with many of the characters. Too many of them seemed too selfish. The two main characters, the Trotter brothers, Paul and Benjamin, were far too self-involved to make me more than fleetingly interested.
It is well written. I read it in 3-4 days, which is fast for me. The politics (Iraq war, New Labour's cosy relationship with business) was a little trite. I'm a middle-aged bloke, married for nearly 30 years, with five kids. I've got the usual sort of problems you might expect. I don't find it especially interesting to read about other middle-aged people having the same kind of problems (or very nearly) unless, of course, someone happens to know the meaning of life and is able to explain it in the course of a novel. Hahaha. I generally want more from a novel than simply reading about other people's small victories and minor frustrations.
I enjoyed it because it's nice to find out what happened to characters you liked, but, as noted, with hindsight it might have been better to have left things up in the air.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best yet !!,
Nobody has anything like his ability to successfully recreate an era.
To do it so precisely and with such poignancy is the work of a true genius.
I live in hope that the day will come when we can learn about Benjamin, Claire, Cicely, Lois, Phil, Doug, Paul, Steve, Harding and Culpepper, etc in their mid 50,s.
The circle might not be truly closed yet.
5.0 out of 5 stars great read,
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The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe (Paperback - 19 May 2008)