The Closed Circle: A Novel
The characters of The Rotters’ Club—Jonathan Coe’s nostalgic, humorous evocation of adolescent life in the 1970s—have bartered their innocence for the vengeance of middle age in a story that is very much of the moment, charged with such issues as 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.
On New Year’s Eve of 1999, with Tony Blair presiding over a glossy new version of Britain, Benjamin Trotter watches the celebration on television in the same Birmingham house where he’d grown up. Watches, in fact, his younger brother Paul, now a member of Parliament and a rising star of New Labour, glad-handing his way through the festive crowd at the Millennium Dome. Neither of them could guess their lives are about to implode.
Paul begins an affair with his young assistant, soon realizes he has made the fatal mistake of falling in love with her, then is threatened with exposure by Doug Anderton, a journalist who happens to be one of his oldest schoolboy enemies. At the same time, Benjamin and his friend Claire, still haunted by memories almost thirty years old, make a desperate attempt to break free of the past, if only to escape the notion that their happiest years are behind them.
As Cool Britannia is forced to address its ongoing racial and social tensions—and as its role in America’s “war on terrorism” grows increasingly compromised—The Closed Circle shuttles between London and Birmingham, where fat cats, politicos, media advisers, and protesters in both locales lay bare an era when policy and PR have become indistinguishable. Meanwhile, its rich cast of characters contends with startling revelations about their youth and the pressing, perennial problems of love, vocation, and family.