The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Jonathan Coe's brilliant new comic novel Expo 58, read by the actor Julian Rhind-Tutt.
Expo 58 - Good-looking girls and sinister spies: a naive Englishman at loose in Europe in Jonathan Coe's brilliant comic novel. London, 1958: unassuming civil servant Thomas Foley is plucked from his desk at the Central Office of Information and sent on a six-month trip to Brussels. His task: to keep an eye on The Brittania, a brand new pub which will form the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 - the biggest World's Fair of the century, and the first to be held since the Second World War.
As soon as he arrives at the site, Thomas feels that he has escaped a repressed, backward-looking country and fallen headlong into an era of modernity and optimism. He is equally bewitched by the surreal, gigantic Atomium, which stands at the heart of this brave new world, and by Anneke, the lovely Flemish hostess who meets him off his plane. But Thomas's new-found sense of freedom comes at a price: the Cold War is at its height, the mischievous Belgians have placed the American and Soviet pavilions right next to each other - and why is he being followed everywhere by two mysterious emissaries of the British Secret Service? Expo 58 may represent a glittering future, both for Europe and for Thomas himself, but he will soon be forced to decide where his public and private loyaties really lie.
For fans of Jonathan Coe's classic comic bestsellers What a Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club, this hilarious new novel, which is set in the Mad Men period of the mid 50s, will also be loved by readers of Nick Hornby, William Boyd and Ian McEwan. Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. Expo 58 is his tenth novel. The previous nine are all available in Penguin: The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love, The Dwarves of Death, What a Carve Up! (which won the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), The House of Sleep (which won the 1998 Prix Medicis Etranger), The Rotters' Club (winner of the Everyman Wodehouse Prize), The Closed Circle, The Rain Before It Falls and The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. His biography of the novelist B.S. Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, won the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction book of the year.
©2013 Jonathan Coe (P)2013 Penguin Books Limited
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"Enjoyable comic novel that tries to be poignant"
Fun in the Fifties with spies.
This is the first that I've listened to, but I've read most of the others.. Whilst hugely enjoyable, I wouldn't rate it as highly as the Rotters Club - still his best.
Yes - another really good narrator.
Naive Brit let loose in 1950s Europe
Much of the book is very funny; although some of the plot is predictable and that robs it of its potential comic drama. Some of the attempts at poignancy don't work, but then it's very hard to create a comic character, like the main protagonist,Thomas Foley, and then try and introduce poignancy. It's still good fun to listen to and I would recommend it as a undemanding listen - great for a car journey or a crowded commute.
No - I have not re-listened to anything yet, and could only think that I might with someone heavier-going than this.
Radford and Wayne were hilarious. I also liked the neighbour.
I liked this book; it had a suitable amount of humour throughout, although I thought the last chapter was unnecessary - I was not really interested in what happened to only some of the characters later in life and thought the book would have had more impact without it. I've found this a bit of a problem with some of Coe's other work - it seems the main body is so good that it can be let down by the ending (What a Carve Up in particular was very disappointing for me at the end). I was also not too fussed about the section when talking about his father (or was it grandfather - I tuned out).
I really liked the narration and would certainly to listen to other books narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.
"A Lucky Find"
I stumbled onto this wonderful book by accident and I am so pleased I did. It's a really great and at times funny story perfectly read.
"A good story"
I enjoyed this book. It was slow to start but gathered pace. There were a number of amusing sections but basically it was a romantic spy novel set in 1958 the year of my birth.
It's a great depiction of life in the 50's and the story is cleverly woven to a fascinating conclusion. The narrator is also excellent.
I enjoyed getting to understand the main character Thomas and the lessons he learned as a result of his actions.
I enjoyed the drunken night, followed by the secret assignation with the 2 absurd English special agents.
If I had the time yes, however it was also easy to dip in and out of
Funny and entertaining but with a darker side too - a bit of everything for everyone!
A fun story, edged with espionage and (what now seems) absurd banality of life in the 1950's
All so so good. Loved them all. I didn't want it to end, his accents were spot on. Norma especially convincing.
Don't want to spoil the plot
Superb story, a glimpse into the 50's and fabulous narration, perfect timing and rhythm.
"The Genius At His Worst"
Reading the summary I thought this would be an uninteresting one. Who cares Expo 58 after all... I downloaded anyway waiting for a miracle to happen. But insignificance is the least painful property of 'Expo 58'
'A not too clever easy reading' wrote a previous listener. That's it. Nevertheless I expect something much more cleverer, much more heavier from Mr. Coe. This is a Godforsaken, half-heartedly written book with third class jokes, insipid storytelling and annoying clichets. It seems to be composed by a not too talented follower of the author. A bitter disappointment.
Dear Jonathan! Why don't you go on with the Rottars' Club - Closed Circle line? If you are still capable of.
Narration is the best thing could happen to this novel. Five stars!
Yes. I found this book a bit different to the sort of thing I would normally listen too, but very enjoyable with quirky little twists and turns.
The reunion at the beer Keller
Thomas is presented by Julian Rhind-Tutt in a way that makes the character believable (but anything that Julian Rhind-Tutt does is fine by me ... Remember Green Wing??)
"Fun period piece"
I don't know - I have only listened to it, but I think the reader certainly added to the enjoyment.
In terms of gentle humour and in terms of the period in which it was set I would compare it to Lucky Jim, but not in quite the same league in a literary sense.
No I haven't, but I will certainly look out for more as I really enjoyed what he brought to the book.
It wasn't really that kind of book, but there were one or two slightly poignant moments around the marital relationship.
A galloping good listen which was great fun and definitely evoked the feel of the post war era with its feeling of optimism but also undercurrents of the red under the bed threat!
"Brilliant comic novel hiding profound insights."
Jonathan Coe's best novel since What A Carve Up! - richly funny on the surface but ultimately about a lot more than the nostalgic spy capers that twist around Thomas, the protagonist - very entertaining and well written as they are. I found the novel profoundly moving and by its conclusion felt that it had told me a great deal about the way our entire lives can sometimes be uprooted or confirmed by the tiniest of decisions or temporary states of mind.
On the surface this is brilliant comic novel with a warm, nostalgic glow. The characters are elegantly drawn and at first Coe gives the impression we are in a classic 1950s Ealing comedy-thriller. Jokes, puns and observations are laugh out old funny and we are led down a path we believe will remain similarly light for the duration of the novel.
It is in the final chapters that Coe confirms that he is one of the greatest novelists of today. Whilst he maintains the humour and light touch, deeper revelations and truths emerge and hard hitting emotional echoes push the novel to an unexpectedly profound conclusion. Memories of earlier events take a terribly poignant and moving turn as the final pages progress.
By the end, I felt as though I had learned a great deal about Britain since 1958, but even more about the way that even the most important parts of our lives and those connected to us hang from the flimsiest of threads. Astounding stuff.
Whilst not as ambitious or angry as What A Carve Up!, this is a richly satisfying novel, equally insightful and entertaining as Jonathan Coe's other novels. For me, this is just a profound a novel as any nominated for The Booker Prize this year. Its comic tone may well have prevented its inclusion but this is a heavyweight piece of literary fiction - and a brilliantly accessible and funny one to boot.
Jonathan Coe's other novels - especially What A Carve Up!, still the best critique of the Thatcher government and how it permanently changed British life for the worse. Expo 58's nostalgic, humorous tone also reminded me of Julian Barnes' England, England as well.
Julian Rhind-Tutt's reading was wonderfully judged - making the most of the comic potential of the novel's many jokes and puns and sensitive to the story's highs and lows. Accents and voices were perfectly handled throughout. A five star performance and a perfect match to the tone of the novel.
As I have mentioned above, the crescendo of the novel left me emotionally devastated. Jonathan Coe had spent every chapter leading me to that point, and the revelations at the conclusion were profound and hard hitting, yet still wryly humorous.
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