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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great period story and fascinating setting
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...
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun read with an unusual premise, but not up to Coe's old standards
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...
Published 4 months ago by Georgiana89


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Cold War tale, 20 Jun 2013
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
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I haven't read Jonathan Coe before so I can't say if it is better/not as good as his previous novels, however once I started 'Expo 58' I found it hard to put down. It is a light and easy to read novel and it is very funny, until it gets to the end. Coe has created a real sense of place and time in this novel as well as an interesting cast of characters. Before reading it I knew nothing about Expo 58, so it has also added to my historical knowledge. Overall an entertaining and intelligent version of the Cold War spy story with a clever and twisted plot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Uitstekende 58, 2 Sep 2014
By 
D. Clarke - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Paperback)
A delightfully written and thoughtfully constructed comic novel. I was especially taken by the way Coe interleaves his interests in the music and English film comedies of the period into the text. The bittersweet ending was very moving. Anyone looking for a contemporary example of a novel with a particularly English sensibility need look no further.

If I had any criticism it would merely be to note in passing the somewhat conservative nature of what's on offer here, for a writer of Coe's ability this is artfully done, but feels like a backward glance to the David Lodge of the early 1970s rather than anything more adventurous. Very enjoyable though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Coe's stories... would keep me reading his books until I go blind., 4 Sep 2014
This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
Jonathan Coe's stories don't just make you want to read more of his books - they make you want to meet each of the characters in person and take them out for a drink to see if you can squeeze any additional details out of them about their lives that weren't contained in the book you've just read. Speaking as a fan of everything the man has written, I don't think this has ever been truer of any book I've read than of "Expo '58". Even the characters I didn't fall for as much as the "obviously attractive" ones would keep me reading his books until I go blind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a book to stick with. Initially it ..., 23 July 2014
By 
Russell James (Gloucestetrshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Expo 58 (Paperback)
This is a book to stick with. Initially it reads as if written in 1959 - the style, the plot, the topic, all reek of that time - and, frankly, had it not been by Jonathan Coe I would have given up. Then it becomes moderately enjoyable. Then again, a little later, you find you're really enjoying it. The plot does not go where you think it will - and the ending is superb.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and likeable, 27 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Paperback)
I'm very fond of Jonathan Coe's novels and although this isn't perhaps the great tour de force of, say, 'What A Carve-up' or 'The Rotters' Club', it is nonetheless funny, whimsical, thoughtful and very enjoyable. The setting is, as far as I can tell, accurately recreated and the characters drawn with the usual dexterity. A very likeable read.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet with a leavening of sour, 28 May 2013
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
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It's 1958 and Thomas Foley has been working in the Central Office of Information since the age of 18 in 1944 (which raises the question of why he wasn't called up for military service). He's a quiet man, so quiet that his colleagues affect to believe that he has taken a vow of silence. He's also handsome, while not having the least idea what to do with his good looks, although he is married to Sylvia with a baby girl.

He spends his time making the sort of COI films that we now find so hilarious, warning people not to sneeze over others and to look both ways before crossing the road, until the startling day when he's told he's to go to Brussels for Expo 58. The centrepiece of the British exhibition is to be a 'typical English pub' called The Britannia and as Thomas's mother is Belgian and his father ran a pub (both of which sad facts earn him the commiserations of his public-school superiors in a very amusing passage) he is the obvious choice.

It's up to Thomas whether he takes Sylvia and the baby with him and he's starting to feel neglected by his wife in favour of his newborn daughter, like so many men. Preparing to set out for Brussels alone, he finds himself an object of interest for a couple of cartoon British spies. Meanwhile, the rather creepy man who lives next door with his invalid sister is keen to keep an eye on Sylvia while he's away.

After 'What a Carve up' in the 80s and 'The Rotters' Club' in the 70s, Coe has gone even further back in time and exposes the sad underbelly of the Cold War world with the lightness of touch which one expects of him. It's a useful reminder of how dismal the 1950s were, and don't let anyone tell you that they were some sort of golden age: Thomas, rather than being put up in a posh hotel as he would be nowadays, is dumped in something resembling a holiday camp, sharing a room with a stranger. Thomas is a very likeable character -- an innocent bumbling through the unreal world created on the outskirts of Brussels, barely understanding what is real and what is fake.

At less than 270 pages, the novel won't detain you long and it's a rollicking good read, funny with just the right leavening of sadness. A surprising amount happens for such a short book and it left me with much to think about.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun & Frolics under the Atomium, 29 July 2013
This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
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Anyone thinking of reading this and expecting another The Rotters' Club or indeed The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim may be disappointed. It is certainly not in the vein of either of these previous Coe novels.

The (fairly short) book is about Thomas, a working/middle class man whose Employer the COI wants him to go to the World Trade Fair in Brussels to run a pub "The Britannia" for the whole six months of the exhibition. During his secondment, Thomas meets a variety of characters from around the world, and gets drawn in by the beautiful hostesses, and a pair of British spies, who reveal to Thomas the real reason he is there.

Coe has obviously undertaken a lot of research into the '58 World Fair, and the post war, pre-cold war world of the time, and it does come to life from the pages of the book. However, as with other reviewers here, I thought the book showed uncertainty as to which elements warranted further explanation; was it the uneasy cold war stand-off between the super-powers, or a satirical take on how reserved we British were after the war.

At points I thought it was really going to get going, but sadly it never did. I found it one of those books where there is nothing wrong with it, but nothing to leap out, grab you and draw you in.

The story is mildly (a couple of chuckles emerged during its relatively short length) amusing, particularly in respect of distinct parallels to today - there is a line where Thomas [the protagonist] wants his wife to quit smoking, but accepts she should wait until after she is pregnant, due to the stresses of pregnancy.

OK, but can do better as previously evidenced. If you are new to Coe try the The Rotters' Club or What a Carve Up! to see how brilliant he can be.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frothy Fluff, 20 Oct 2013
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
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Gentle humour in `Expo 58' stems from dialogue between main protagonist Thomas Foley and his wife, neighbour, associates etc. but it is somewhat frothy and clichéd. Thomas' secondment to Expo 58 in Belgium and the consequences of his work there and his involvement with a variety of individuals draw him into a world of East-West espionage and personal relationships, but the situations are of fluff and caricatures that lack depth. Author Jonathan Coe has clearly researched the aims and organisation of the Bruxelles exhibition and he skilfully evokes the spirit of post-war Britain, but his story is trite and trivial. It makes a pleasant read but it is too long and drawn out as a novel, and perhaps would do better as a magazine novella or a TV instalment for a spy programme. The frothy fluff nature of `Expo 58' leaves it as a very average novel - hence 3-star rating.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ealing Comedy Never Made, 9 Oct 2013
This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
This is the first Jonathan Coe book I've read, so I had no idea of what to expect, except maybe a humourous read, which is what I got.

Set in the Fifties, this is a gentle comedy which could easily have been made, starring Ian Carmicheal, Leslie Phillips, Barbara Windsor, Terry Thomas, Joan Sims and others from the comedy caper entourage from that era.

The period, and language, in which it's set, is described and evoked effortlessly, and you can see the film unfolding easily in your mind's eye. Maybe as the movie on Saturday afternoon on BBC2 before Playaway, back in the 1970s.

Entertaining enough read, but aside from that, I'm not sure this book would have been published if it came from a first-time author, as it's not outstanding, and it doesn't really push me in the direction of Jonathan Cole's other novels, which are widely-acclaimed.

So, in conclusion, one for hardcore fans of JC only. Or if you find a copy left on the tube or on a train, then pick it up if you have nothing else on the go.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but doesn't have much substance, 30 May 2013
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
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A new book from Jonathan Coe is always a treat, and although Expo 58 is a pleasant read, it certainly lacks some of the richness in terms of content that previous books from him have delivered.

Set in 1958 at the Expo event that was held in Brussels, Coe uses this trade event to explore several issues. The book beautifully captures the excitement and anxieties of the period: the uneasy Cold War atmosphere, the closer integration of European countries, the gloom and flatness that prevailed in much of life in England, so these are all enjoyable aspects of the book, and Coe is masterly at capturing how people spoke and behaved during those times.

But, like his central character Thomas Foley, Coe seems unsure which path to take with the story as it unfolds. Is it a light comedy of manners and cultural differences? Is it part Cold War thriller? Is it an exploration of the doubts and uncertainties of a married man (Foley), as he sways between commitments at home, and temptations abroad? The book tries to be all of these things, which is partly why it feels slightly directionless, lacking an overall plot to drive the proceedings.

The concluding chapters feel slightly contrived as a way to bring things to a close, but through the narrative structure employed, it does allow Coe an opportunity to do what he really does best: explore relationships established again after a long period of time apart, and the associated nostlagia and sadness that often comes from such reflection.

So, much to enjoy, and if I could award three and a half stars here I would; but overall the book lacks something to really make it an outstanding read.
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Expo 58
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
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