Sunday, 6 September 2009

What a Carve Up!

Title: What a Carve Up!

Author: Jonathan Coe

Number of pages: 504

Started: 29 August 2009

Finished: 4 September 2009

Opening words:

Tragedy had struck the Winshaws twice before, but never on such a terrible scale.

The first of these incidents takes us back to the night of November 30th 1942, when Godfrey Winshaw, then only in his thirty-third year, was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire as he flew a top-secret mission over Berlin. The news, which was relayed to Winshaw Towers in the early hours of the morning, was enough to drive his elder sister Tabitha clean out of her wits, where she remains to this day. Such was the violence of her distraction, in fact, that it was deemed impossible for her even to attend the memorial service which was held in her brother's honour.

Read an excerpt here

Plot summary:

A brilliant noir farce, a dystopian vision of Britain, a family history and the story of an obsession. Michael is a lonely, rather pathetic writer, obsessed by the film, 'What A Carve Up!' in which a mad knifeman cuts his way through the inhabitants of a decrepit stately pile as the thunder rages. Inexplicably he is commissioned to write the family history of the Winshaws, an upper class Yorkshire clan whose members have a finger in every establishment pie, from arms dealing to art dealing, from politics to banking to the popular press and factory farming. During his researches Michael realizes that the Winshaws have cast a blight on his life, as they have on Britain. His confidence, his sexual and personal identity begin to reform. In a climax set in the Winshaw's family seat the novel turns into the film, 'What A Carve Up!' as a murderous maniac stalks the family and Michael discovers the significance of Shirley Eaton's lingerie.

What I thought:

I really liked this book. I thought it was finny and engaging and had a great mix of a plot about a slightly mad and very controlling family and also some satire about Thatcherite Britain. I thought it was a good read that worked very well combining fact and fiction. I am not overly political and so don’t let it being a satire about 1980s politics put you off. It was very readable and I found it hard to put down. Good stuff.


Sarah said...

Glad you reviewed this one. Have this appalling mental block regarding Jonathan Coe and JM Coetzee. Having just read a review of Summertime, hopefully will now be able to recall that two different names equals two different authors...

Time will tell.

Anyway, What a Carve Up in review sounds significantly more appealing than I had given it credit for. (Probably that whole Coe/Coetzee muddle thing...)

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I wasn't really sure if I wanted to read it, but once I started it I thought it was really good. I liked the writing style and the flow of the book and all the different story lines that came together by the end. It was much better than I expected.

I have read some Coetzee but have very little memory of the book. I was thinking of trying some more though.