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Middle England

Narrated by: Rory Kinnear
Series: Rotters' Club, Book 3
Length: 14 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (387 ratings)

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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Middle England by Jonathan Coe, read by Rory Kinnear. 

'It was tempting to think, at times like this, that some bizarre hysteria had gripped the British people.' 

Beginning eight years ago on the outskirts of Birmingham, where car factories have been replaced by Poundland, and London, where frenzied riots give way to Olympic fever, Middle England follows a brilliantly vivid cast of characters through a time of immense change.

There are newlyweds Ian and Sophie, who disagree about the future of the country and, possibly, the future of their relationship; Doug, the political commentator who writes impassioned columns about austerity from his Chelsea townhouse, and his radical teenage daughter who will stop at nothing in her quest for social justice; Benjamin Trotter, who embarks on an apparently doomed new career in middle age, and his father, Colin, whose last wish is to vote in the European referendum. And within all these lives is the story of modern England: a story of nostalgia and delusion, of bewilderment and barely suppressed rage.

Following in the footsteps of The Rotters' Club and The Closed Circle, Jonathan Coe's new novel is the novel for our strange new times. 

©2018 Jonathan Coe (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic reviews

"Coe is among the handful of novelists who can tell us something about the temper of our times." (The Observer)

"Probably the best English novelist of his generation." (Nick Hornby)

"You can't stop reading....I was haunted for days." (The Independent on Number 11)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Highly absorbing 'political Gogglebox'

...A cross-sectional comic look at modern Britain.

I didn't think I would like this so much, but listening to this and reliving the past decade with the characters, the Olympics, elections, riots, Brexit, I found myself thinking back over events as well as enjoying seeing said events through various lenses and viewpoints.

An eclectic cast of characters, young and old, parents and children, Londoners and Midlanders, live through the most recent decade in England, offering us social commentary on a Gogglebox scale, with multiple viewpoints on key events as they live their own lives.

Characters fall in love, marry, split, suffer losses, study, work... and react to the news that readers will all recall, but with varying reactions. It all feels quite nostalgic in a way, sections like the scenes as everyone watches the Olympic opening ceremony had me feeling patriotic and remembering the time.

It felt strange reliving elections, and blackly humorous as we see relationship struggle to survive the Brexit vote.

A wonderful listen, the one voice manages a range of ages, genders and accents with ease, I completely forgot I was listening to one narrator and had no issue knowing who was 'speaking'. Even the running length didn't feel at all a hindrance, it sped by as I settled in to reliving my last decade with familiar characters going through it with me.

A great choice from Audible, it felt like I was looking through a lens at the lives presented. Dark humour, some highly realistic characters representing various walks of life, all the way up to the top of the political life.

Highly recommended, whatever your political persuasion. May not go down as well overseas with people less familiar with recent British social and political history.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Satire at its best

Humane, moving and often laugh out loud funny or darkly comic, the novel explores the reactions of a cast of connected characters to events that take us from the Queen’s Jubilee to Brexit via the Olympics, elections and the appalling murder of Jo Cox. Jonathan Coe writes with great sensitivity and Dickensian panache to give a view of recent history that is illuminating, thought provoking and multi-dimensional. Various hot potatoes of political correctness, naivety or prejudice act as stepping stones that characters step on or avoid at their peril. Personal relationships provide the source of compelling drama, humour and poignancy, whilst generational differences enliven the social panorama.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Thought provoking

What a delight to meet up again with Ben Trotter, his family and his friends and to find out how they are reacting to these troubled times. As I have not lived in the UK for forty years I have viewed the complexities of Brexit as an outsider and I am perplexed by the whole issue and so I was pleased to note that there appears to be a whole raft of intelligent people with severe doubts about the sanity of the decision to leave.
Jonathan Coe has once again produced an entertaining but thought provoking novel that brings in the reader and gives tremendous value. His characterisation is second to none and I love the way he uses real places and settings.
The narration was excellent too, so i just wanted to go on listening.
Thanks Jonathan, you have produced some wonderful pieces of literature.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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When Cool Britannia turned into Brexit Britain. Superb.

Jonathan Coe is a wonderful author and his ability to write satire that is believable as well as entertaining is first class.

Middle England describes the experiences of a group of people from the heady days of Cool Britannia and the lead up to the 2012 Olympics through to the aftermath of the EU referendum and the nature of Brexit Britain. Many of them are middle-aged, middle managers, middle of the road, in mid-life crises and/or were born in the Midlands. Others are trying to escape middle England and its problems, memories and demands or have settled in other cities. All of them are caught up in the sheer madness of the politics of the referendum and its outcome.

Jonathan Coe uses real events, real people and real news stories to embroider his tale and has produced a brilliant tapestry of our national life and attitudes which is colourful, intense and brutally honest. It is a novel for our times and brilliantly explores the kind of nation we have become.

I would not be surprised if it appears, in years to come, on school and university literature syllabuses. It is that good.

Great narration from Rory Kinnear who manages a cast of varied characters with great aplomb.

All in all, a 5* novel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • MR
  • 11-12-18

Poignant backdrop to current brexit chaos

Really touched by book. At times funny and moving but strong story and characters. Excellent read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

Brexit Britain: comedy, pathos, drama. I just loved this take on the current situation and how it affects the players in this tale. Used to live in Earlsdon and recognised so many places mentioned in the book which made it even more fun! I'm off to complete my Coe collection now.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A great listen

Funny & moving. The skewering of Cameron's Brexit balls up is particularly humorous and enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JPR
  • UK, ex- Africa
  • 03-01-19

Clever reflection of current state of uk.

This book reflects the lives of a group of Midland families and the causes and consequences of the Brexit referendum. Basically it casts a light on the current state of divided Britain and how it sees its place in the world. Don't be put off if you're tired of the Brexit debate this is more a living social history. It is very clever , well written and profound. The narrator is absolutely brilliant.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Thought provoking.

Loved this book, very thought provoking, amusing in parts but also sad. Plenty to think about and an accurate overall view of England today. Narration was excellent. I shall certainly listen to more from this author and also the narrator.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Beautifully written tale of present England

I didn't know what to expect from this having not been aware of the book's content nor Coe's previous works. The characters are beautifully observed. What I hadn't expected was just how funny it was. Best book I've listened to this year. Rory Kinnear's narration was excellent and really brought the characters to life. Loved it.