“Over several decades Jonathan Coe has emerged as one of the great state-of-the-nation novelists of our time. He writes about ordinary people living through the transformative changes of postwar Britain. Bournville is another episode in a cycle of books. It shares some of the same characters with books he’s written before. It very cleverly takes particular moments from VE Day in 1945—and the sense of exhilaration at the end of the war—right up to the COVID lockdown of 2020.
Through these snapshots, Bournville tells the story of one woman and her family and the culture as a whole. He’s wonderfully precise and vivid about the texture of everyday life. At the same time, there is this great overarching sense of historical change—not only how it’s appreciated in the abstract, in terms of political events, but how it feels on the inside, how social change imprints itself in the emotional and cultural life of ordinary people. He accomplishes that in very subtle but brilliant forms.”
Best Political Novels of 2023, recommended by Boyd Tonkin