On Millennium night, with 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. He is watching his brother, Paul, now a young New Labour MP who has bought wholeheartedly into the Blairite dream.
Michael is a lonely, rather pathetic writer, obsessed by the film, 'What A Carve Up!' in which a mad kinfeman cuts his way through the inhabitants of a decrepit stately pile as the thunder rages. 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.
Set in the 1970s against a backdrop of strikes, terrorist attacks and growing racial tension, this novel captures a fateful moment in British politics - the collapse of 'Old Labour' - and imagines its impact on the topsy-turvy world of the bemused teenager: a world in which a lost pair of swimming trunks can be just as devastating as an IRA bomb.
Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom: separated from his wife and daughter, estranged from his father, and with no one to confide in even though he has 74 friends on Facebook. He's not even sure whether he's got a job until suddenly a strange business proposition comes his way which involves a long journey to the Shetland Isles - and a voyage into his family's past which throws up some surprising revelations.
Jonathan Coe's new book is a story for our times: Maxwell finds himself at sea in the modern world, surrounded by social networks but unable to relate properly to anyone. Yet as he delves into his family history he manages to find the resources to survive.
This is a novel about the hundreds of tiny connections between the public and private worlds and how they affect us all. It's about the legacy of war and the end of innocence. It's about how comedy and politics are battling it out and comedy might have won. It's about how 140 characters can make fools of us all. It's about living in a city where bankers need cinemas in their basements and others need food banks down the street. It is Jonathan Coe doing what he does best Â- showing us how we live now. 'Coe is among the handful of novelists who can tell us something about the temper of our times' Observer