I’ve usually enjoyed Jonathan Coe’s novels, my favourite being one from long ago, What a Carve Up. Middle England is third in a series about characters first met in The Rotters Club and though you don’t need to have read the first two, it would help, I think. Coe is as insightful as ever about politics and the sense of England in the 21st century, though I suspect he tends to be preaching to the converted in his readership. There isn’t a driving plot line so you have to enjoy the book for its humour and to catch up on the old Rotters Club characters.

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim is another matter.  It’s hard to stick with a novel in which he main character is so dreary. You just hope that that it will be a story of his enlightenment, or something. Why his wife didn’t leave years ago is a mystery.  Be wary of cover blurbs which promise a book ‘spring loaded with mysteries and surprises’ It isn’t. ‘Heart-breaking and hilarious’ it says on Amazon. Heart-sinking, maybe. Hilarious?  Whoever wrote that must find the weather forecast highly amusing. The plot is heavily contrived and the ending even more so. It’s the equivalent of those stories which end up with – ‘and then I woke up and it was all a dream’.

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