Sarah A Smith

All’s Fair in Love & War

Expo 58

By

Viking 266pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Jonathan Coe’s artful, comedic novels have dealt with the recent British past: the 1980s in What a Carve Up!, the 1970s in The Rotters’ Club, and the turn of the millennium in its sequel, The Closed Circle. Expo 58 takes a step further back and afield: the British presence at the 1958 World Fair in Brussels. The results are, to borrow a phrase from Coe’s parodic vernacular, top notch. An intensely visual novel, Expo 58 relies on the reader’s knowledge of British and European cinema of the period to create a world of slapstick and surrealism. Thus we have the buffoons of the upper echelons of the civil service and the resilient young hero of Ealing comedies (Coe references Dirk Bogarde here, but I had a composite of Alec Guinness, Ian Carmichael and Kenneth More in my head). Alongside this, Jacques Tati’s antic approach is suggested in the absurdist world of espionage into which the narrative strays, as overweight spies squeeze into Volkswagen Beetles or tumble from skylights, and mysterious hands appear to offer umbrellas to would-be lovers in the rain.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • With our February issue about to go to press, enjoy a slice of LR history - Hilary Mantel on Joan Haslip's biograph… ,
    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,