Drama · Fiction · Horror

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe

What is it about?

Number 11 is more a series of short stories that form together to create a bigger picture than a coherent, conventional novel. But all of these stories have one thing in common – the number 11 (surprise, surprise). The stories span a roughly ten-year period, for the most part following the lives of  two childhood friends; Alison, a one-legged lesbian, and Rachel, a decently well-off Oxford student. Following them as they grow up, fall in love, fall out of love, work, make friends and discover who truly  runs the world (hint: it isn’t those waiting in line at the food bank). All of this serves as a backdrop for Coe’s vitriolic, unflinching satire against pretty much everything – social media, old people, young people, the police, the left wing, the right wing, people who donate to food banks, journalism, the internet, comedians – leaving you with a sensation that Jonathan Coe probably isn’t someone you’d want at a dinner party.

Is it any good?

As with most books, there are highs and lows. The high of Number 11 was, for me, the section in which Alison’s one-hit-wonder mother gets sent into an unnamed reality TV show clearly intended to be I’m a Celebrity…, whilst Alison slowly and realistically (although undeniably predictably and obviously) falls in love with her best friend. After that, it’s all very much downhill. It becomes slow, tedious and dull – everything a good satire shouldn’t be. Although there are definitely parts that are grabbing, and Coe writes children very well, his ability to write dialogue is non-existent  and the entire thing wreaks of pretension.

Rating: 4/10

How long did it take to read: 11 days

For fans of: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, politics, Agatha Christie, Revival by Stephen KingA Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, whining

This book tastes like: pork scratchings c


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