What a Carve Up! By Jonathan Coe


What a Carve Up! is like having a weird dream- spooky coincidences, off-kilter cinematic scenes, and an absolutely inability to determine the course of frantic action.

Novelist Micheal Owen has been hired by a mad aunt to write a biography is the despicable upper-class Winshaws. In the midst of the Thatcher years, each of the family members is up to their elbows in shady dealings across multiple spheres; there is the poisonous columnist, the arms dealer, the no-morals politician trying to sell off the NHS, and so on. As Owen digs deeper into their part, startling coincidences emerge.

It is inventive political and social satire, stuffed with cultural reference to show place and time. Partly told through letters, different charters, film scripts, diaries- whatever the medium, it’s very funny. Coe mercilessly captures ridiculousness of ludicrous social situations and pretentious characters, and send them up in style.

The disparate threads and styles have an overall effect of a crazy patchwork quilt or a magic eye picture. For some people, its complexity and layering comes together as a coherent, rollicking read but I’m left totally bamboozled by the ending. This is exactly why it reminds me of a dream; funny, nonsensical, and uncomfortably disorienting at the same time. I couldn’t even tell you if I enjoyed it or not!

Read: For a literary version of Spitting Image or Private Eye

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