Jonathan Coe is emerging as the chronicler of our times.
In his latest novel Bournville he traces the origins of Brexit back to VE Day – and subsequent noteworthy events thereafter – as seen through the eyes of the Lamb family who live in the Bournville suburb of Birmingham an utopian suburb built by the Cadbury family.
The events are the televised marriage of Queen Elizabeth, the 1966 World Cup Final, the investiture of Prince of Wales, his marriage to Diana Spencer, their divorce, Brexit, and the lockdown during the pandemic.
It’s always readable, often funny well-observed but scarcely impartial as it’s clear that Coe is a Remainer.
On Monday night I attended a dinner of old uni friends where all the arts are discussed.
One had recommended reading Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann which I found dense and rambling.
I provoked a discussion on whether a classic novel is rooted in its own time, admitting that contemporary fiction resonates with me more – as with Bournville – but two others maintained the quality of writing and observance by writers like Jane Austen are timeless.
Personally I find her prim and her world snobbish.
She was of course a spinster and her observation of life reminds me of an American senator once deploring the Pope’s encyclical against the Pill:
“If a man don’t playa da game, he no make a da rules.”