Expo 58 – Good-looking girls and sinister spies: a naive Englishman at loose in Europe in Jonathan Coe’s brilliant comic novel.
London, 1958: unassuming civil servant Thomas Foley is plucked from his desk at the Central Office of Information and sent on a six-month trip to Brussels. His task: to keep an eye on The Brittania, a brand new pub which will form the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 – the biggest World’s Fair of the century, and the first to be held since the Second World War.
As soon as he arrives at the site, Thomas feels that he has escaped a repressed, backward-looking country and fallen headlong into an era of modernity and optimism. He is equally bewitched by the surreal, gigantic Atomium, which stands at the heart of this brave new world, and by Anneke, the lovely Flemish hostess who meets him off his plane. But Thomas’s new-found sense of freedom comes at a price: the Cold War is at its height, the mischievous Belgians have placed the American and Soviet pavilions right next to each other – and why is he being followed everywhere by two mysterious emissaries of the British Secret Service? Expo 58 may represent a glittering future, both for Europe and for Thomas himself, but he will soon be forced to decide where his public and private loyaties really lie.
About the Author
Jonathan Coe has written ten novels: The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love, The Dwarves of Death, What a Carve Up!, The House of Sleep, The Rotters’ Club, The Closed Circle, The Rain Before It Falls, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim and Expo 58. His biography of the novelist B.S. Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, won the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction book of the year.
An amusing novel about “Britishness” set in 1958 during the World’s fair in Brussels.
Coe should once again be considered for the IMPAC Award for this amazing approach to the Cold War.