Let’s go backwards. Backwards in time, all the way to the beginning. Back to a country that neither of us would recognize, probably. Britain, 1973.
-Was it really that different, do you think?
– Completely different. Just think of it! A world without mobiles or videos or Playstations or even faxes. A world that had never heard of Princess Diana or Tony Blair, never thought for a moment of going to war in Kosovo or Afganistan. There were only three television channels in those days, Patrick! Three! And the unions were so powerful that, if they wanted to, they could close one of them down for a whole night. Sometimes people even had to do without electricity. Imagine!

– Jonathan Coe, The Rotters Club

At the moment, I’m making a concerted – if slightly reluctant – effort to bring my reading up to date. Indeed, if you glanced at the stacks of books currently gathering dust in storage back in the UK (ie. toppling precariously off my Dad’s ad hoc book shelves) you might be forgiven for thinking that the novel ceased existing some time around 1978 (which it didn’t, did it? Might as well have done, though. Arf arf. A little “situation of the novel” humour for you there. Jeez.)

Anyway, after a happy couple of days counting the erections in The Line of Beauty, I’m now onto Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club. I’m, oh, about 50 pages in, so not much cohesive to report at present, except this: Now, I’ve long held that English culture seems to develop unevenly around a series of time-lags, that there are certain manifestations or practices that persist, long past their appropriate chronology. However, it’s pretty disconcerting to find that Coe’s mid-seventies Birmingham, with its homemade light ale, Big School, prefabs and Black Forest gateau, meshes so easily with the 1990s Hull of my childhood.

Author: jenniferhodgson

Writer, editor, researcher


  1. ha ha, the 1990's Hull childhood – of course, being a child in Peckham in the 80's I was constantly on the look out for Del Boy and Rodney, and developing a distinct animosity towards anyone norf of the rivva. Special occasions meant a trip to Pizzeria Castello off the not to salubrious, yet still south, Elephant & Castle roundabout, where, before the americanisation of all good budget restaurants who now do “banoffee-coffee pie”, or somesuch, the dessert trolly always seemed loaded with that irrestistable 80's fave – profiteroles… where have all the profiteroles gone?

  2. D’ya know what, I was just about to claim that profiteroles were still very much alive and well in Hull. As evidence, I was going to turn the Whistling Goose, a BOGOF “family pub” on a roundabout near my house.In this instance, however, the profiteroles are imaginary, not immanent. On consulting their online menu, I see that though the menu includes Prawn Cocktail and Fish n Chips, there’s also Piri Piri Chicken Skewers, Tortilla Melt and (gasp) Banoffee Pie!Perhaps Hull’s not such a throwback, after all.(Oh Christ, I am absolutely living up to the Hullian’s proudly downwardly-mobile, self-mythologising rep. here, aren’t I?)

  3. First of all, are you in Blighty and haven’t told me? Second of all Jonathan Coe is one of my favourite writers, the Rotter’s Club is lovely and slightly alien for someone who grew up in a posh bit of the capital in the 90s but many themes resonate. Please read What A Carve Up And The House Of Sleep. Don’t read The Closed Circle.BTW My boss’ starter quotidien is prawn cocktail with avocado. Children of the 80s tend to stay there.

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