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"The Closed Circle" by Jonathan Coe

"The Closed Circle" by Jonathan Coe

previous novel, The Rotters' Club, was a novel
of innocence: a nostalgic, humorous evocation of adolescent life in 1970s Britain. The Closed Circle is its mirror image: a novel of experience.

On Millennium night, 31 December 1999, with Tony Blair presiding over a superficially cool, sexed-up new version of the country, Benjamin Trotter finds himself watching the celebrations on his parents' TV in the same Birmingham house in which he grew up. Watching, in fact, his younger brother, Paul, now a bright young New Labour MP who has bought wholeheartedly into the Blairite dream. Neither of them can know that their lives are about to implode.

When Paul begins an affair with his young assistant, it seems at first to be nothing more than a career move. But then disaster strikes: he realizes he has made the fatal error of falling in love with her. Threatened with exposure by Doug Anderton, a leading political journalist and one of his oldest schoolboy enemies, Paul is faced with a stark choice between political advancement and personal happiness. Unless, as Tony Blair would have us believe, there really is `a third way'. Meanwhile, Benjamin and his old friend Claire both remain, in their different ways, haunted by the events of those heady schooldays almost thirty years earlier, and become involved in equally desperate attempts to break free from the past.

Set against the backdrop of Britain's ongoing racial and social tensions and the country's increasingly compromised role in America's `war against terrorism', The Closed Circle shuttles between London and Birmingham, taking in fat cats, media advisers and
political protesters, and lifts the lid on an era in
which policy and presentation have becomes'
almost indistinguishable.
As its characters struggle to make sense of the
perennial problems of love, vocation and
family in a changing world, it offers a
I bitter-sweet conclusion to the unfinished
business of The Rotters' Club.