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Bournville: From the bestselling author of Middle England

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This book has an interesting and ‘novel’ structure, excuse the pun: it is the story of one woman’s life, and that of her family, told in the context of seven memorable occasions in their lives and the life of the nation – the UK that is. This novel is perhaps even more explicitly a social examination of the state of the nation but is more straightforward read and without the farcical or spoof elements which made those novels more striking. Just as he did in his Middle England trilogy, Coe here has given so much space to describing events of the period in question that it often reads as much like a short history of modern Britain as a novel. I had heard good things about Jonathan Coe, this is was the first of his books I read, it will take a fair bit of convincing to get me back to it anytime soon. It is also a potted history of Cadbury’s, the English chocolate maker so loved by the Brits and, now that it is owned by an enormous American company that has ruined it in some ways, is also known throughout the world owing to the new owners’ excellent marketing abilities.

It’s difficult (but not impossible) to draw a line between the complex energy of Coe’s early work and these gentler, more sedate later novels.

Coe studied at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge, before teaching at the University of Warwick where he completed a PhD in English Literature. For me a closer comparison would be to Francis Spufford’s Booker longlisted/RSL Encore Prize winning “Light Perpetual” although without the oddly redundant meta-fictional conceit, the welcome exploration of faith and the almost transcendent ending (although see below). We meet Geoffrey’s cousin, Sylvia, and her husband, Thomas, whom we recognise from Coe’s earlier novels Expo 58 and The Rain Before It Falls.

Unbeknownst to me, COVID was sneaking up on my family and by the time that I picked up the story about Mary and her family at the end of World War II, I would be sick with COVID. 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?E anche recentemente avevo trovato Middle England capace di riappacificarmi un po' con questo autore ma qui, che gli è successo? Mary will go on to live through the Coronation and the World Cup final, royal weddings and royal funerals, Brexit and Covid-19. This book is set in Bournville in Birmingham where the famous Cadbury's factory produced some of the nation's favourite chocolate bars.

It follows four generations of a family in seven sections which cover some of the most famous events of the last 75 years including the coronation, a royal wedding and funeral, the 1966 World Cup and the covid pandemic. The title is Bournville because Bournville is the suburb of Birmingham where the Cadbury factory was built, and which provided employment for generations of Bournville residents.Whilst they went about their own business and had their own personal family experiences, they were encountering the same historical happenings as the rest of us which fostered a kind of solidarity with me as a reader. 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 . It promised me a family story over a number of major events in British history, set in the home of Cadbury. Seventy-five years of postwar British history deftly interrogated through the fortunes of one Birmingham family in this wonderfully witty and insightful novel from the author of The Rotters' Club and Middle England.

a posteriori με τους Ουαλλούς εθνικιστές-ακτιβιστές-επαναστάτες και την αποτρεπτική δράση ενός μέλους της οικογένειας, ξεφεύγει από το μοτίβο της προβλεψιμότητας. Dal canto mio, nel corso della mia presenza su questo sito ho già avuto modo di dire che considero Coe un genio per i quattro libri che ha scritto in gioventù (lo so che li conoscete, ma li cito lo stesso: La banda dei brocchi, La famiglia Winshaw, La casa del sonno ed Il Circolo chiuso), e, siccome si tratta di libri che io non sarei stata in grado di scrivere neanche campando trecento anni, non posso certo rimangiarmi il giudizio. The Cadbury factory is there in the distance the whole time, but it wasn’t as detailed as I had thought initially (perhaps reacting to the title and immediately thinking of the cocoa).The set up is simple but effective – a single family (based around the eponymous Cadbury’s built workers village), and part German descended is followed across seven nation-defining: VE Day; The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth; The World Cup Final; The Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales; The Wedding of Charles and Lady Diana; the Funeral of Diana; the 75th Anniversary of VE Day (which takes place in the early days of lockdown – a prologue being set in March 2020 as the virus spreads across Europe in real time). 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. Instead of the clever wit and irony that leavened his previous State-of-the-Nation novels like The Rotters' Club, Coe's satirical vision here is motivated here by anger and preachiness, and his sociological observations felt obvious and on-the-nose. The beans themselves had always come from the far corners of the Empire, of course - nothing unBritish about that - but the means of turning them into edible chocolate had been invented by a Dutchman, and it was a truth universally acknowledged - if for ever unspoken - that it was the French, and the Belgians, and the Swiss, who had since brought the making of chocolate to a pitch of near-perfection.

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