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.
"Coe back to his best."
What I love about Jonathan Coe books are that you are always able to relate to the characters and yet feel jealous of them.
This is not only because he manages to make them real but he presents the character with problems that change the way they live their lives. Situations that most of us would love to have been a part of if we were faced with the same dilemma.
All with endings that tie things nicely and reveal the intricacies of the story.
Now to catch up with others I have missed.
Listening is like having my dog again.
"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!
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