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This review is from: The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger (Paperback)
I must admit, when I learned the title for David Nobbs' new book, my first thought was: hasn't he already done this? Didn't he once write a book with a very similar title? I, of course, was thinking of "The Fall and Rise of Reggie Perrin." Reggie might have been one of the most popular and well-loved of his character creations, but my first thought on marking the similarities in the titles was alarm bells. It struck me as an author who has run out of ideas and is striving to recapture some of his earlier, glory days. The Times, in a review of the book, have stated that "nothing that Nobbs has written since [Reggie] has had quite the same impact"; and it's true that this isn't the comic masterpiece that was Reggie Perrin.
Within the book, title aside, there are shades of Reggie - only this time the story is told from the insufferable viewpoint of the CJ character - Gordon Coppinger. Gordon, like CJ, is a man who knows how to make people uncomfortable, and with the clever use of office furniture (hard chair or easy chair?) emphasise their powerlessness in his company. I also detected shades of one of my other favourite characters of Nobbs' creation, Henry Ezra Pratt, within the novel. The grim Climthorpe United scenes really reminded me of the scenes within the Pratt novels relating to Thurmash United.
All of the above said, though, this is a completely different book from either Reggie or Henry Pratt. As time has passed, Nobbs's work has adopted a more serious tone and this is a serious novel about a man who is losing everything but slowly finding his humanity again. Yes, there are some good one-liners in it - Nobbs still hasn't lost his way with words and that neat and witty turn of phrase which characterises his work - but, overall this is a book which is filled with pathos for the human condition in the modern age. Like all Nobbs' work, it's worth reading, on the understanding that it will make you cry as well as laugh out loud.
Like one of the other reviewers, I found that the plot was a little muddled at times and I didn't really get where it was going. Still, I enjoyed it, and that's an end result in itself. It didn't take me long to read and it was a pleasurable way to pass the time.
The part where Hugo warns Gordon that he is about to be arrested and they discuss any plans he might make in anticipation of this is particularly pertinent:
"'Leave my clothes on a beach and start a new life?'
'Well, it's been done before.'"
It certainly has.