From Stocking Thrillers, Socialist Review, No.269, December 2002, p.25.
Copyright © 2002 Socialist Review.
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The novel I enjoyed most in 2002 was The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe. I read his hilarious assault on the Thatcher years – What a Carve-Up! – some time ago, and laughed a lot without really believing the author knew or cared much about the reasons for the Thatcher victories. The Rotters’ Club is based on Coe’s native city, Birmingham, in the mid-1970s, and the main characters are connected at different levels to the huge British Leyland factories at the centre of teh industrial disputes of the time. Very slowly and subtly the novel unveils the collapse of the workers’ militancy and confidence, ending in the sacking of ‘Red Robbo’, the Communist shop steward convenor at the Longbridge complex. Apparently incidental, though in essence quite central, is an account of the pickets at Grunwick’s, so brutally beaten back by the police. This was a time when I was working full time for Socialist Worker, and when I stood for parliament for a Birmingham constituency. I never imagined that the loves and hates of ordinary working people during that time would make such rich material for a powerful novel but, in spite of going a bit over the top at the end, Jonathan Coe has certainly produced one. the good news is that there is at least one sequel to come.
Last updated on 18.1.2005