Friday, 2 November 2012

The Dwarves of Death

Title: The Dwarves of Death

Author: Jonathan Coe

Number of pages: 214

Started: 31 October 2012

Finished: 2 November 2012

Opening words:

I find it hard to describe what happened.

It was late in the afternoon, on a far from typical London Saturday.  Winter was mild that year, I remember, and although by 4.30 it was already good and dark, it wasn’t cold.  Besides, Chester had the heater on.  It was broken, and you either had it on full blast or not at all.  The rush of hot air was making me sleepy.  I don’t know if you know that feeling, when you’re in a car – and it doesn’t have to be a particularly comfortable car or anything – but you’re drowsy, and perhaps you’re not looking forward to the moment of arrival, and you feel oddly settled and happy.  You feel as though you could sit there in that passenger seat forever.  It’s a form of living for the present, I suppose.  I wasn’t very good at living for the present in those days: cars and trains were about the only places I could do it.

Plot summary:

William has a lot on his mind. Firstly, there's The Alaska Factory, the band he plays in. They're no good, and they make his songs sound about as groovy as an unimpressed record. In fact they're so bad he's seriously thinking of leaving to join a group called The Unfortunates.
Secondly, there's Madeline, his high-maintenance girlfriend whose idea of a night of passion is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical followed by a doorstep peck on the cheek. Maybe they're not soulmates after all?
Lastly, there's the bizarre murder he's just witnessed. The guiding force behind The Unfortunates lies bludgeoned to death at his feet and, unfortunately for William, there aren't too many other suspects standing nearby…

What I thought:

I have read one other of Jonathan Coe’s books and absolutely loved that.  It had clever observation and social analysis and turned that into a really clever telling of the 1980s and Thatcher era.  However, this book I felt rather missed the mark.  It was readable, but a bit lacklustre.  There was an intriguing opening involving a murder, but then the book drifted a bit and reminded me a bit of reading a Nick Hornby novel.  There’s nothing wrong with Nick Hornby, but that wasn’t what prompted me to read a Jonathan Coe book.  The book was fine, but nothing very memorable.  I really want to try another Jonathan Coe book though to see whether it lives up to the first one I read.  I think The Rotter’s Club will be my next attempt.

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