Cover image for Expo 58
Expo 58
Coe, Jonathan, author.
Personal Author:
First U.S. Edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : New Harvest, 2014.
Physical Description:
viii, 274 pages ; 22 cm
An English public employee becomes embroiled in a Soviet plot while he oversees the construction of an authentic British pub being showcased at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.
We're all excited about Brussels -- What's gone is gone -- These are modern times -- Trying to build up a picture -- Welkom terug -- Rum sort of cove -- Calloway's Corn Cushions -- Motel Expo -- The British are part of Europe -- We deal in information -- I can love whoever I want -- I can love whoever I want -- The girl from Wisconsin -- Artificial stimulants -- Wilkins -- A nice old pickle -- A private room -- The trouble with happiness -- Tooting Common -- Too many statistics! -- Pastorale d'Ete -- Excellent work, Foley -- Like a princess -- The easiest thing -- Well and truly over -- Unrest -- Hollahi hollaho
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



A comic spy caper and international love story, set in Europe in the middle of the last century, Expo 58 is the latest sublime creation by Jonathan Coe, hailed by Nick Hornby as "probably the best English novelist of his generation."

Handsome, unassuming Thomas Foley is an employee at the Central Office of Information whose particular biography (Belgian mother, pub-owning father) makes him just the man to oversee the "authentic British pub" that will be erected at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It's the first major expo after World War II, meant to signify unity, but there's inevitable intrigue involving the U.S. and Soviet delegations. In the shadow of an immense, imposingly modern structure called the Atomium, the married Foley becomes both agent and pawn--when he's not falling head over heels for Anneke, his Belgian hostess.

Funny, fast-paced, and genuinely moving, Expo 58 is both a perfect evocation of a moment in history and the welcome return of one of today's finest novelists.

Author Notes

JONATHAN COE is the author of The Winshaw Legacy and nine other novels. His many prizes include the Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Perhaps you decided to tackle Tolstoy this summer. Or maybe you've just pulled your head out of the fifth Game of Thrones title. Tired of those thick, dense tomes, you're looking for a palate cleanser. Here is the book for you: a light, blessedly short, dry English satire. Thomas is a junior clerk (naturally) in the government's ministry of information, a solid, dependable man who has just begun to suspect that his newborn daughter may change his life more than he was counting on. Offered the chance to represent his office at the 1958 world's fair in Brussels, he jumps at the chance to leave his distracted wife and crying baby for the bright lights and glamour of Expo 58. In charge of the ersatz pub at the UK exhibit, he parties with the Belgian hostesses, confers with the Soviet newsletter editor who seems to desperately need his advice, and is trailed by the comical Mr. Radford and Mr. Wayne, avuncular British agents who trap Thomas in their schemes. Like the best books of this kind, Expo 58 is funny and smart, but not at the expense of true feeling and deeper currents. When best-laid plans go awry, Thomas' sense of disorientation ultimately leads to a far clearer grasp of reality than he ever wanted.--Weber, Lynn Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Thomas Foley, the hero of this small-scale but impressive novel about the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, is the quintessential English everyman. Middle-class and middlebrow, he lives in a London suburb with his wife, Sylvia, and their baby daughter while quietly plying his trade as a mid-level functionary for Britain's Central Office for Information. He is honored when his bosses tap him to manage the Britannia, an "authentic English pub" planned as part of the official British presence at the fair. The job requires him to be in Belgium for several months, and the sojourn is utterly life-changing. The plot mixes romance (with beautiful Belgian hostess Anneke) and decidedly comic intrigue (two bumbling British spies, Wayne and Radford, and an equally transparent Soviet agent). Coe is a gifted satirist (The Winshaw Legacy: or What a Carve Up!), and he subtly works in big themes here: Britain trying to finds its place in the postwar European landscape, and Britons trying to find their place in the postwar British class system. Coe uses period detail and historical fact smoothly, and the result is a droll, clever novel that ends on a bittersweet note. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.