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Bournville

"This immersive exploration of Britain through four of generations focuses on key events to create a profound and funny portrait of a nation, with an unforgettable woman at its chocolate-rich heart."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Tender and wickedly funny, Jonathan Coe’s Bournville takes readers on a sweeping, stirring journey through British history – seventy-five years’ worth of lives bound up in Britain’s social shifts, from VE Day, through to COVID tragedies.

The family at the heart of this deliciously engaging social saga live in picture-perfect, peaceful Bournville, a suburb of Birmingham and home to the famous chocolate factory that’s employed most residents for decades. We first meet Mary as an eleven-year-old in 1945, when she’s swept up in VE Day celebrations, and follow her family through pivotal moments in British history — the coronation; England winning the World Cup in 1966; the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969; the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana; Diana’s funeral in 1997. 

More recent moments include Euro-scepticism of the nineties, as revealed through the “chocolate war” with Brussels, with pertinent references to Boris Johnson’s ambition, arrogance, charisma and rule-breaking at that time. Then there’s the outbreak of COVID in 2020 - the lockdowns, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the agonising loneliness, and devastating loss.

In characteristic style, Coe’s observations are delivered in the authentic voices of his characters, lightly peppered with occasional amusing interjections from the narrator. With its heart-rending ending made all the more poignant by the Author’s Note, Bournville is a cleverly constructed, consummately compelling account of British lives. As Mary’s mother Doll observes near the start of the novel: “Past, present and future: that was what she heard in the sound of the children’s voices from the playground… Everything changes, and everything stays the same”, which cuts to the core of this beautifully-told story.

Joanne Owen

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