I pick up a lot of my books at charity shops. Obviously I can’t recall all 1001 books off the top of my head-although sometimes I wish I could! - So I keep a short list of books that look interesting in my handbag. ‘What a Carve Up!’ was one of those random books that I picked up for about £1 and has sat in my bookcase for about 2 years…I wish I’d picked it up sooner.
Coe borrows the title and the structure of the book from a 1960’s camp horror film. I needn’t have worried about watching the movie; the book is more than accessible and stands alone from the film.
The book chronicles the life of the Winshaws, a bunch of philandering, insane, unscrupulous, greedy…the list could go on lets just say they’re a bunch of ‘rich ne’er do wells’!
Michael Owen- a writer with plenty of this own problems- is commissioned by elderly spinster and asylum resident Tabitha Winshaw to chronicle the life of her family. The book is wonderfully split between Michael and his depressing life, which crumbles as he becomes desperately obsessed with the life of the Winshaws, and that of the 6 Winshaw grandchildren. Michael discovers that each of the six is immersed in some shady dealings; there’s a banker, an arms dealer, a politician, a farmer, an art dealer and a journalist. Each one is more dastardly than the last, and each is willing to do anything to be Top Dog in an 80’s world of Thatcherite’s and yuppies.
As Michael delves deeper into the dynasty he discovers that his life is more than slightly intertwined with the Winshaws. The more he tries to move away from them the more they keep cropping up, ending with a bringing together of the Winshaw clan that ends on an oddly ironic note for each of the group.
Coe’s style of writing is wonderful. The satire so sharp you can feel it coming through the page; who cares if the Winshaws are such caricatures’ it doesn’t matter the whole story is so shocking and the Winshaws so blunt you don’t care. There’s comedy that makes you laugh out loud, sadness that tears at your heart, gore that makes you cringe, and mystery that really surprises you.
The writing is accessible, the genres distinct, and the 80’s made to look like a wasteland of ‘Thatcherite Wankers’- and I loved it!