There’s something magical about teenage years in The Rotters’ Club, thanks to that privileged public school. It’s an intellectual thing that can’t help but make you wish your school had been more ideas driven and school life more rounded and safely challenging. But for all that, this is an extremely accessible book that reads as a balanced, nostalgic but not romantic and incredibly broad portrait of a time I’m just too young to remember.
Like John King’s Human Punk, The Rotters’ Club captures the pop cultural experience of the 1970s (though while King’s book is set at the outbreak of punk among the suburban proletariat, Coe is just before the revolution hits the middle class). IRA terrorism, the rise of the National Front and the industrial strife that destroyed Old Labour all impact on the very real characters’ lives to create a truly satisfying must read novel.