A Touch of Love, by Jonathan Coe

Coe's second book, I think: this one is about Robin, who's a postgraduate attempting to complete his thesis but not really making much progress. The book gives us an insight into Robin's life, and includes four short stories that Robin has written, which might or might not help us understand why he acts as he does.

This was a nice one, although I read a lot of it in one go as I was ill and reading through the night, so I think I missed some of the subtleties. There was some good stuff about the problems of writing and supervising a thesis, touching on the difference in effort involved for the student and supervisor. Also a fair bit of humour from contrasting the lofty titles of the academic works for which professors have made their names with the mundanity of their conversation, e.g.

'Quiet roday, isn't it?'

'Well, it's getting on for Christmas,' said the highly acclaimed author of The Intelligent Heart: Thought and Feeling in the Eigteenth-Century Novel.

Also quite a bit about missed romantic opportunities: a theme that pervades Robin's work and life is the thought that he failed to take the chance of a relationship with a girl at college, and that as time goes by he becomes more convinced that she was the one.

Robin is not without insight, and the authorial asides in his short stories, as well as his own comments, make clear that he is aware of how foolish some of his attitudes may be, even though he cannot free himself from them.

I liked the section where Robin imagines himself, twenty years in the future, being interviewed about his (by this time) famous oeuvre. I can remember doing that; I guess Coe has done too.

Worth reading again but more slowly, I think.

Completed : 09-Sep-2008

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