Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe

expo58Jonathan Coe is one of those British writers I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. He’s written a slew of books that are said to be satirical and humorous. This is certainly true of Expo 58.

Expo 58 is a comic spy caper set at the World’s Expo in Brussels in 1958. Thomas Foley is seconded from his desk job in London at the Ministry of Information to oversee the running of an ‘authentic’ British pub at the fair. Here he finds romance and is unwittingly drawn into international intrigue. Expo 58 paints a lovely picture of post-War Europe and the subtle negotiations taking place in the new world order.

As much as I enjoyed the novel, it did get off to a little of a slow start for me. However, once Thomas arrived in Brussels it was smooth sailing. I’ve always been intrigued by World’s Fairs and much of the subtext surrounding them. I love the efforts to try to recreate an entire culture in a clearly temporary and disposable exhibit. Expo 58 gave so much insight into what it was like to be there on a day-to-day basis for six months.

Who would like this book? This is for those who love a bumbling, international caper. Expo 58 would make a great gift for that hard to buy for dad who is also interested in espionage and history. It is also an amusing read for those who like to look back at past imaginings of the future. In this regard, if you like the book cover pictured, it is a good bet that you will like the book as well. As an introduction to Coe’s writing, I think it served its purpose as well. I will definitely keep my eye out for other books by him.

I received a copy of the book for review consideration from the publisher via NetGalley.


  1. I’m a fan of Jonathan Coe and enjoyed this one which had more than a touch of the Ealing Comedies about it – caper is the word! I’d agree with MyOtherVoices – The House of Sleep is much under-rated but is both hilarious and poignant.

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