Posted 20 hours ago

Bournville: From the bestselling author of Middle England

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To show three generations of an ordinary Midlands family, their paths taken and not taken, their friends, lovers, jobs, achievements and losses; to interweave this with 75 years of national history - and to do so with such a lightness of touch is a tremendous achievement. I've enjoyed Jonathan Coe's comic novels for two decades, but white this was perfectly readable, it is not one of my favorites. As we travel through seventy-five years of social change, from James Bond to Princess Diana, and from wartime nostalgia to the World Wide Web, one pressing question starts to emerge: will these changing times bring Mary's family - and their country - closer together, or leave them more adrift and divided than ever before? Working for Waterstones meant that I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this book well before the publication date.

I have previously read two of Jonathan Coe’s novels – his 1994 “What A Carve Up” and 2015 part-sequel “Number 11” – both very readable and enjoyable (if rather didactic and over-preaching to the converted) social satires drawing on English farce and (more oddly) spoof horror movies – the first novel in particular also surprisingly formally inventive. Coe's interwoven paeans to the lives of those rooted in the very centre of the UK - The Rotter's Club and Moddle England among them - blend comedy, tragedy and social commentary in enjoyably memorable fashion, and his latest, Bournville , is no exception . And I did make it a point to get to the end before writing this review, just in case the novel could redeem itself before the end. If Cadbury's chocolate was ever truly to compete on this field, it would have to be branded in such a way that it trailed in its wake an overtone of European refine-ment, Continental sophistication.As somebody of Coe’s age both the period covered (1945-2000) and therefore his perspective on events resonated throughout. It is miraculous how, in his new novel, Coe has created a social history of postwar Britain as we are still living it.

Set in Coe's nativeMidlands and told through thelives of four generations of onefamily, beginning with 11-year-oldMary in 1945, Bournville is apoignant, clever and witty portraitof social change and how theBritish see themselves.In style at least "Bourneville" is in many ways similar to the Rotter's Club trilogy using key moments in history to anchor the story, albeit this time in a much compressed format; anyone who enjoyed the Trotter books will most probably enjoy "Bourneville".

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