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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Dwarves of Death

Jonathan Coe

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To purchase The Dwarves of Death

Title: The Dwarves of Death
Author: Jonathan Coe
Genre: Novel
Written: 1990
Length: 198 pages
Availability: The Dwarves of Death - US
The Dwarves of Death - UK
The Dwarves of Death - Canada
The Dwarves of Death - India
Les Nains de la mort - France
Replay - Deutschland
Questa notte mi ha aperto gli occhi - Italia
DVD: Five Seconds to Spare - US
Five Seconds to Spare - UK
  • The Dwarves of Death was made into the straight-to-video flop Five Seconds to Spare (2000), directed by Tom Connolly and starring Andy Serkis and Ray Winstone

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Our Assessment:

B : a fun, unusual musical thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 17/5/1990 Christina Koning
The Spectator . 15/9/1990 D.J.Taylor

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The complete review's Review:

       In the The Dwarves of Death -- and beginning with the title -- Coe emphasizes the bizarre, though, as so often, he makes it strangely believable. A musical piece (the sections are headed Theme One and Solo and Key Change and Coda and the like), and with each section headed by lyrics from guiding hand Morrissey (The Smiths), the novel is another of Coe's interesting (and successful) literary experiments.
       William, the narrator of the book, is somewhat at sea. "I find it hard to describe what happened," he tells us in the books first line -- and again later on. Coe does not find it hard to tell at all, it is merely a complex and unusual story. A musician, twenty-three year old William wants to join a new band (promisingly named The Unfortunates) and promptly witnesses one of the members get killed by two dwarves.
       William blames the most obvious and easy target for this and most of his troubles: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Turning back a few pages he explains how he wound up in the middle of this situation. The band William is in wreak havoc with the songs he composes, and the girl he is interested in, Madeline, is both a fan of Lloyd Webber and a by and large unattainable Catholic, and Coe is able to poke fun at various subjects (mainly musical) as he describes William's squirming through life.
       William's musical misadventures and efforts to win over Madeline continue apace. Nothing too exciting, but amusing enough stuff. William also hears about a band called The Dwarves of Death, a punk group that featured two diminutive bass player with a reputation for criminal violence, and the story builds up to the murder with which it opened.
       Coe neatly unravels the strands, with some unexpected twists and explanations. A story about youth and aimless ambition and music and learning from life, Coe has fashioned a nice little entertainment with a few good laughs.
       Certainly a fun read, recommended if the subject matter (music, youth) are of interest.

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The Dwarves of Death: Reviews: Five Seconds to Spare - the movie: Jonathan Coe: Other books by Jonathan Coe under review: Other books under review that might be of interest:

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About the Author:

       Born in 1961, Jonathan Coe attended Cambridge and Warwick universities. He is the author of several novels.

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