Beginning eight years ago on the outskirts of Birmingham, where car factories have been replaced by Poundland, and London, where frenzied riots give way to Olympic fever, Middle England follows a brilliantly vivid cast of characters through a time of immense change.
Tragicomedy is perhaps the only viable medium for a novel about Brexit, and Jonathan Coe brings his usual lightness of touch to a subject that could make an author come over bitter and humourless. His affectionately witty attitude to our human foibles is always uplifting, even when the politically divisive subject matter is morbidly depressing ... easily the most digestible contribution to Brexit-lit so far ... It takes an author with some neck to create a character so similar to himself, but just a bit worse in every way. Whether Coe’s self-satire is arrogant or a witty, postmodern trick only God and Larry David know ... Coe’s unflagging commitment to recording British life as it really is combines with his sensitive evocation of middle-aged angst, to make this an absorbing homage to things that change and things that stay the same.
Rather than writing a diatribe against the likes of Farage or Johnson, [Coe] uses the novel to try to understand why people voted as they did and the historic prejudices that led to such an unexpected result ...Readers of Coe’s earlier books The Rotter’s Club and The Closed Circle will be pleased to be reintroduced to Benjamin Trotter ... Each character is so credible and so vile that the question is not why it took England so long to leave the EU, but why the EU didn’t kick them out years ago. ... Coe is a deft comic writer, probably Britain’s finest, and there are dozens of laughs along the way ... Millions of words have been and will be written on Brexit but few will get to the heart of why it is happening as incisively as Middle England.
A state-of-the-nation novel, blending real events with fiction to compelling effect ... What makes Middle England stand out is that it isn’t a knee-jerk response. It goes further back ... speaks to the 700,000 people who marched for a People’s Vote this month ... both a wry, topical take on our times and an engaging story ... For anyone left feeling adrift and isolated by politics, Middle England provides solace.