Middle England

Knopf. Aug. 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780525656470. $27.95. F
The Rotters are back. When last seen (in Coe’s The Closed Circle), these old friends, who first met at an elite school in the Seventies, were approaching middle age with disillusionment over their relationships, their careers, and Tony Blair’s government. In their third outing, at the dawn of the Brexit era, their discontent intensifies. This new installment centers on Benjamin Trotter, would-be author, living in a mill house on the Severn River outside Birmingham, England. Ben’s newly widowed father represents the generation that barely recognizes the changing landscape of a postindustrialized, multiethnic Britain. On the other end of the spectrum is Ben’s niece, Sophie, an art history teacher, whose career may be derailed by a student’s overzealous support for a transgender classmate and whose marriage is also under strain from the polarizing effect of Brexit.
VERDICT With stories ranging from the heady days of the London Olympics to the unholy mess that is Brexit, this multistranded novel depicting the ever-widening gulf between the well-intentioned but misguided Left and the angry Right. Coe astutely blends political insight with assured storytelling. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/19.]
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