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The Winshaw Legacy: Or, What a Carve Up!

Overview

If Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie had ever managed to collaborate, they might have produced this shamelessly entertaining novel, which introduces readers to what may be the most powerful family in England—and is certainly the vilest. A tour de force of menace, malicious comedy, and torrential social bile, this book marks the American debut of an extraordinary writer.

A postmodern detective story, a scathing send-up of the rapacious '80s, a macabre Gothic, this ...

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Overview

If Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie had ever managed to collaborate, they might have produced this shamelessly entertaining novel, which introduces readers to what may be the most powerful family in England—and is certainly the vilest. A tour de force of menace, malicious comedy, and torrential social bile, this book marks the American debut of an extraordinary writer.

A postmodern detective story, a scathing send-up of the rapacious '80s, a macabre Gothic, this savagely funny, hugely inventive, and passionately political novel heralds the American debut of an exciting English author. As the biographer of a wildly eccentric family pieces together the truth of their sordid legacy, he finds they have a mysterious connection to his own troubled history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this patchily entertaining postmodern pastiche of class warfare, Coe places Michael Owen, a burnt-out middle-class writer, as the family chronicler of the Winshaws, an upper-class British dynasty involved in everything wrong with modern England: television and tabloid journalism (Hilary, the hack); Thatcherite politics and National Health Service Reform (Henry, the back-stabber); industrialized agriculture (the beastly Dorothy); insider stock trading (Thomas, the voyeur); and arms dealing with Iraq (the callous Mark). Coe's contemporary vile bodies are not only utterly unprincipled, greedy and philistine, but their presentation is uninspired and unamusing as well, contracting these issues down to a distinctly parochial dimension. Sandwiching their corrupt stories is an intricate comic plot out of the murder-at-the-manor genre, weirdly reflected in Owen's obsession with an old movie in which he is convinced he stars and which determines his fate. Coe's dry, deflating Midlands sense of humor infrequently rises above the episodes of scrupulously didactic satire and works well with the more quotidian social ills, such as telly-addiction and the unending waits in NHS hospitals. The narrative becomes more interesting toward the end, when Coe gets around to murdering a number of his characters, but since they never become quite real in the first place, the reader doesn't really care. A story closer to this mundane Britain of post-Thatcher disaffection would have been more welcome for his American debut than agitprop Waugh-mongering. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In this mordant satire of 1980s greed, a seemingly chance encounter with an employee of a vanity press lands well-reviewed if little-read novelist Michael Owen a commission to write the history of a powerful British family named the Winshaws. The Winshaws have made their mark in every area of British life. Harry is a member of Parliament, Hilary writes a popular newspaper column, Dorothy runs the nation's largest slaughterhouse, Thomas is a merchant banker, Roddy is a London art dealer, and Mark is an arms dealer supplying Saddam Hussein. Yet, as Owen soons discovers, their wealth and power are matched by their shallowness and moral vacuity. Coe stirs elements of the Gothic, detective, and comic genres into a wildly funny, ultimately frightening mix. Though occasionally didactic, this work is nonetheless a tour-de-force-and a delight to read.-Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679754053
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Series: Vintage International
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 1,412,861
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Birmingham in 1961, Jonathan Coe took degrees from Cambridge and Warwick universities. He lives in London.

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