A few friends have been telling me to read it for ages, but I’ve just finished the Rotter’s Club by Jonathon Coe and have to say I loved it. The problem is I’m not sure it would be honest of me to recommend it to everyone because I have a special interest in the subject matter — it’s set in the school I went to.
Okay so it’s set twenty years before I was there but hardly anything had changed. One of the only scenes that couldn’t have been repeated was where the Chief Master got complaints from passers by when a boy was forced to stand naked on the diving board above the outdoors swimming pool. By the time I got there they’d put a roof over the pool.
King William’s is actually King Edward’s a few miles south of Birmingham city centre. Jonathan Coe is also an old boy (if memory serves me correctly he was the guest of honour at prize day a couple of years ago) as are a collection of slightly odd other luminaries. Check this out for a group of forebears to inspire the current generation: Field Marshall Slim, JRR Tolkein, Enoch Powell and Bill Oddie just for starters.
Benjamin is probably closest to my experience of the place as like him I was made a prefect without really knowing why. This involved all kinds of weird things but one of the funniest was being invited to the Chief Master’s house for dinner on the evening before each term started. I don’t remember the Founders Port but I do remember being plied with quite a lot of wine and having to learn the art of small talk in record time.
I might be wrong but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Paul in the book maybe David Willets now Tory MP for Havant and another infamous old boy. The dates don’t quite match up but having a poster of Margaret Thatcher on his bedroom wall at age 13 seems to fit the persona.
It’s a very funny book, full of great one liners and some hysterical situation stuff, and it’s very good at transporting you back to another age, but perhaps its most useful role is explaining why people who went to King Edward’s seem to always turn out a little bit odd. I should know.
Read more on Amazon UK.