Excerpt from The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Closed Circle

by Jonathan Coe

The Closed Circle
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 384 pages
    Jun 2006, 384 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

When I sat down on that bench high on the chalk cliffs above Etretat, I hadn't even decided whether it was you I was going to write to, or Stefano. But I chose you. Aren't you proud of me? You see, I'm determined that I'm not going to go down that road. I promised myself that I wouldn't contact him, and a promise to yourself is the most binding of all. It's difficult, because there hasn't been a day for four months when we haven't spoken, or emailed, or at least texted. That kind of habit is hard to break. But I know it will get better. This is the cold turkey period. Looking at my mobile sitting on the table next to the coffee, I feel like an ex-smoker having a packet of fags dangled in front of her nose. It would be so easy to text him. He taught me how to send text messages, after all. But that would be a crazy thing to do. He'd hate me for it, anyway. And I'm scared of him starting to hate me--really scared. That scares me more than anything. Silly, isn't it? What difference does it make, if I'm not going to see him again?

I'll make a list. Making a list is always a good displacement activity.

Lessons I've learned from the Stefano disaster:

  1. Married men rarely leave their wives and daughters for single women in their late thirties.
  2. You can still be having an affair with someone, even if you're not having sex.

I can't think of a number three. Even so, that's not bad going. Both those lessons are important. They'll stand me in good stead, the next time something like this happens. Or rather, they'll help me to make sure (I hope) that there won't be a next time.

Well, that looks good, on paper--especially this expensive, thick, creamy, Venetian paper. But I remember a line that Philip always used to quote to me. Some crusty old pillar of the British establishment who said, in his dotage: "Yes--I've learned from my mistakes, and I'm sure I could repeat them perfectly." Ha, ha. That will probably be me.

Fourth coffee of the day
National Film Theatre Cafe
London, South Bank
Wednesday, 8th December, 1999

Yes, I'm back, sister darling, after an interruption of twenty hours or so, and the first question that occurs to me, after a morning spent more or less aimlessly wandering the streets, is this: who are all these people, and what do they do?

It's not that I remember London very well. I don't think I've been here for about six years. But I do (or thought I did) remember where some of my favorite shops were. There was a clothes shop in one of the back streets between Covent Garden and Long Acre, where you could get nice scarves, and about three doors along, there used to be some people who did hand-painted ceramics. I was hoping to get an ashtray for Dad, a sort of peace-offering. (Wishful thinking, for sure: it would take more than that . . . ) Anyway, the point is, neither of these places seems to be there any more. Both have been turned into coffee shops, and both of them were absolutely packed. And also, of course, coming from Italy I'm used to seeing people talking on their mobiles all day, but for the last few years I've been saying to everyone over there, in a tone of great authority, "Oh, you know, they're never going to catch on in Britain--not to the same extent." Why do I always do that? Bang on about stuff I know nothing about, as if I was a world expert? Jesus, everybody here has got one now. Clamped to their ears, walking up and down the Charing Cross Road, jabbering to themselves like loons. Some of them have even got these earpieces which mean you don't realize they're on the phone at all, and you really do think they must be care-in-the-community cases. (Because there are plenty of those around as well.) But the question is--as I said--who are all these people and what do they do? I know I shouldn't generalize from the closure of a couple of shops (anyway, perhaps I got the wrong street), but my first impression is that there are vast numbers of people who don't work in this city any more, in the sense of making things or selling things. All that seems to be considered rather old-fashioned. Instead, people meet, and they talk. And when they're not meeting or talking in person, they're usually talking on their phones, and what they're usually talking about is an arrangement to meet. But what I want to know is, when they actually meet, what do they talk about? It seems that's another thing I've been getting wrong in Italy. I kept going round telling everybody how reserved the English are. But we're not, apparently--we've become a nation of talkers. We've become intensely sociable. And yet I still don't have a clue what's being said. There's this great conversation going on all over the country, apparently, and I feel I'm the one person who doesn't know enough to join in. What's it about? Last night's TV? The ban on British beef? How to beat the Millennium bug?

Excerpted from The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Coe. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.