Although Jonathan Coe is mainly known as a novelist, he is also a biographer, an essayist, a short story writer, an as yet unpublished playwright, a film and book reviewer, as well as a music composer. Coe’s most recent experiments in fiction include the writing of two children’s books: The Broken Mirror (2012) and The Story of Gulliver (2013), both first published in Italy. While the latter confirms Coe’s attachment to Jonathan Swift, the former (which has not yet been published in Britain) is a fable which expounds the necessity to believe in dreams and, above all, to dream collectively. The story had an earlier version, entitled Fragment of a Glass, which Coe wrote some 30 years earlier when he was a student. He retained the central metaphor of the broken mirror which reflects a better world than the one we live in and attempted in both versions to ‘capture something about what it was like to grow up, leaving your childhood and your youthful fantasies ruefully behind’ (Website, Broken). In The Broken Mirror, the lonely and melancholy eight-year-old Claire plays in a rubbish dump where she finds a fragment of mirror which reflects ‘not the ordinary, over-familiar things of which her everyday world consisted, but the things she might dream about’. As Claire grows up, the reflections in the mirror change: the ‘vibrant, colourful fantasy world’ of childhood is lost and replaced by familiar surroundings, but always ‘transformed, made more welcoming and beautiful’.
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