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Jonathan Coe
at the
complete review:

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Name: Jonathan COE
Nationality: GB
Born: 19 August 1961
Awards: John Llewellyn Prize
Prix Médicis Etranger

  • B.A., Trinity College, Cambridge (1983)
  • M.A. (1984) and Ph.D. (1986), University of Warwick

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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What others have to
say about
Jonathan Coe:

  • "He is angry and funny, yet he shuns the aesthetic compromises of satire." - Trev Broughton, Times Literary Supplement (23/5/1997)

  • "Jonathan Coe is the late Kingsley Amis' most talented successor in employing the refreshment of dismay to denounce the state of Britain and beyond. Appropriately contrarian, he stands in the opposite corner from his predecessor." - Richard Eder, The Los Angeles Times (1/3/1998)

  • "Coe creates female characters of singular believability, courage and vulnerability. That gift helps distinguish him from predecessors like Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh, for whom he is rapidly becoming a match as a humorist and master of the novel's design." - Carey Harrison, San Francisco Chronicle (26/4/1998)

  • "One of the many delights of Coe's writing is the way he does voices. Rather than sit readers down and tell them a story, he lets his characters do it for us. Sometimes this is a showcase for Coe's mimicry, but for the most part it gives his narrative layers and depths. It also means that we have little choice but to see things from their points of view." - Tom Payne, Sunday Telegraph (29/8/2004)

  • "Many of his successes and shortcomings as a novelist have their origins in a tension between a fondness for architectonic elegance and an acknowledgement that a realistic novel requires something more fluid. The more immediately attractive elements of Coe's writing - the humour, the complexity of (some of) his characters, the evocation of specific, recognizable times and places, the pastiche of newspaper columnists, student journalists, advertising copywriters -- are ornaments on more rigidly formal creations." - David Horspool, Times Literary Supplement (10/9/2004)

  • "With the withering of Martin Amis's talent, Jonathan Coe is now the funniest serious novelist practising in this country." - Robert Hanks, The Independent (8/10/2004)

  • "Coe is a witty writer with a talent for social satire that singes characters without burning away their humanity. He's particularly interested in the way people manage their personal lives in relation to the political climate" - Ron Charles, The Washington Post (5/6/2005)

  • "A fanged social satirist who can also channel Swift’s aptitude for political parody, Coe is most valuable when detailing oddball male behavior and the emotional myopia that guarantees discontent. The archetypal Coe male suffers from both personal and professional incompetence, from an astounding inability to connect or progress." - William Giraldi, The New York Times Book Review (10/4/2011)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Very funny
  • Effective combination of satire and gravity
  • Books well (if sometimes very intricately) structured
  • Books are fast-paced and varied
  • Reveres the right authors -- especially Alasdair Gray and B.S.Johnson

  • Books can seem too complicated -- too much going on, too many characters, too many points of view, etc.
  • Very British

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the complete review's Opinion

     Jonathan Coe is among the more interesting contemporary British authors. Like Martin Amis and Julian Barnes, he uses humour throughout his works -- though often taking it to far greater extremes. But Coe mixes the humour (even -- or perhaps especially -- at its absurdest) with the serious: his works are not escapist amusement, but rather a reflection of our odd world.
     Coe enjoys playing with the form, trying to see what can still be done with fiction. His novels are also intricately plotted, and often very complex conceptions, a true tangle of threads -- but Coe has always carefully tied them together and he neatly unravels them too.
     Coe has written a variety of novels. He has distanced himself from his earliest efforts but, while they are not major pieces (and haven't even been published in the United States), they are also of some interest. Still, it is the later, more ambitious works, starting with the widely-acclaimed What a Carve Up ! , in which his talent has truly flowered.
     The still very young Coe continues to mature with each of his novels, and looks to be a writer of exceptional promise. His ambition to write a biography of the great B.S.Johnson is also laudable, and we very much look forward to this work -- now (2004) available as Like a Fiery Elephant.

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Jonathan Coe: Jonathan Coe's books at the complete review: See also:
  • Index of other Author Pages at the complete review
  • Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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