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This review is from: Expo 58 (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed Expo 58, to the extent of staying up far too late to finish it in a single sitting. It's an amiable and fast-moving comedy-adventure romp, much in the style of Hitchcock's more lighthearted films. There's romance, cold war intrigue, and lashings of perfectly-observed period detail. It's also a small masterpiece of plotting: the cogs and wheels of its various plotlines mesh together so smoothly and effortlessly that it's easy to miss the considerable writerly craft at work here. If Graham Greene had written it, he'd surely have called it an 'Entertainment'. Except there are more (and better) jokes in Expo 58 than you'd ever find in a Graham Greene novel.
As you would expect from Jonathan Coe, there are darker waters flowing beneath the book's frothy surface. There is a strong element of satire. This is more gentle and indulgent than in earlier books like 'The Rotters Club' and 'What a Carve Up', but Coe still has plenty of pointed fun with '50s Britain's struggle to come to terms with its rapidly shrinking role in the World Order. There's also an undertow of fatalistic melancholy undercutting the book's humour, most memorably in the book's brilliantly poignant finale, recalling the mood of Coe's more recent 'The Rain Before It Falls'.
Not quite five stars, but close. It's one of Coe's more unambitious books, which has neither the scale nor the reach of his very best novels. It is however still a wonderfully entertaining book, handled with real confidence, maturity and panache by a brilliantly gifted writer who is always worth reading.