Jonathan Coe: Bournville

The latest addition to my website is Jonathan Coe‘s Bournville. This might be described as a state of the nation novel, as we follow an extended family from VE Day to the present day and the covid pandemic. The main character is Mary Lamb, based on Coe’s mother as he tells us in the afterword, who, on VE Day, witnesses a racist attack on her future (British-naturalised German) grandfather-in-law and meets her future husband, Geoffrey. The couple will have three very different sons who all play a key role in the book. Indeed Coe focusses mainly on the extended family and how they interact while also focussing on key events (particularity those involving the British royal family) and how the family reacts to them. We also follow the role of technology over the years, the UK’s troubled relationship with the EEC/EU and the rise of a tousle-haired blond journalist who will later become prime minister. Racism and Welsh nationalism also play a key role in the book. It is, as always, from Coe, a well-told tale.

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