6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fun & Frolics under the Atomium,
This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
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.