Tag Archives: Jonathan Coe

The Dwarves of Death

The Dwarves of Deathby Jonathan Coe

When a budding young musician finds himself the sole witness of a particularly brutal murder, he does the one thing any self-respecting, mixed up young man would do – he runs away. Fast. In a rather refreshing alternative to the more typical gung-ho amateur sleuthing that you often find in crime novels, William has no intention of trying to solve the crime, although it soon becomes clear that he is being drawn into something beyond his control.

For most of the book, William tells his own story, some of which is relevant to the potential bandmate Paisley’s untimely demise, only in that they are the events that wind up with him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The crime itself and its aftermath are merely bookends to the real story.

As a character, William is a somewhat unlikely hero. He is indecisive, lost in his own little world. He has dreams and ambition but lacks the drive and passion needed to make them a reality. Even his relationship with girlfriend Madeline seems to be going nowhere with William unable to guide it in any meaningful way.

This is only the second Jonathan Coe book I have read so I can’t say if it is typical in approach or style, but I enjoyed the touches of humour and fascinating insight into the less glamorous side of London’s music scene. 

Coe is undoubtedly a great storyteller. I can see now why my wife enjoys his books so much. The only question is why has it taken me so long to join in.  

A really good and easy read. 



The House of Sleep

by Jonathan Coe

Coe is a favourite of my wife’s, but I have never actually read any of his work myself before. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but the cover promised me something “hilarious and devastating”; what I got some was something mildly interesting and eventually amusing. 

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book because I did. But not because of the plot, which I found contrived and lacking in focus. I found some of the characters to be extremely engaging and the twist in the tale unexpected but welcome. Describing this book as hilarious is really stretching it. In fact, it barely raised an amused smile until over halfway through when started to get into his stride.

The plot revolves around a group of students, each with their own issue around sleep and dreams. Misunderstandings and madness give the tale an interesting and unusual twist, but for me, the real meat of the story came too late to fully rescue the book. 

The House of Sleep is not one of the better books I have read recently. It was not a bad book, but it simply wasn’t as good as it could have been. In the hands of someone like Tom Sharpe, this story could have been a real gem.