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Jonathan Co examines the “United Kingdom” of the British yesterday and today

Jonathan Co examines the “United Kingdom” of the British yesterday and today

Emily Café Powell, contributor to the 20 Minutes reading group, recommends The Disunited Kingdom by Jonathan Coe, published on November 11, 2022 by Éditions Gallimard.

His favorite quote:

Like the murmur of a river, like the sound of a rising tide, a distant counterpoint to the hiss of his broom on the stairs, a disembodied voice whispering in his ear, over and over, the same mantra: The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.

Why this book?

  • Because this English novel, as the title suggests, it brilliantly pays homage to recent UK history. Jonathan Coe uses the main events that have marked British history in recent decades as a backdrop, thus painting a complete and uncompromising portrait (a certain “Boris” takes it for his rank) of his country. It’s a great, huge English novel.
  • Because it’s the kind of family fresco we like. Opening with a generous family tree, the novel depicts no less than five generations of the same family, which the reader follows with great love for decades. Although the novel makes numerous jumps in time, the reader becomes very attached to this family, even though he does not follow it every day.
  • Because it is an extremely brilliant historical novel, which combines a great story with the more modest of its characters. The impact of major events, the echoes they have on everyday life: the author talentedly presented all this.
  • Because it is also a novel that smells like chocolate, which will make you want to eat it throughout the reading. You will learn more about the little-known “chocolate war” that pitted us French and British…

The most important in 2 minutes

Action. Jonathan Coe unravels the story of an English family from the end of World War II to Covid, in the small working-class village of Bournville, famous for the headquarters of Cadbury chocolate.

Characters. The central protagonist is undoubtedly Mary Lamb. A child on May 8, 1945, she grows up over chapters: the story details her life as a woman, the lives of her children Martin, Peter and Jack, her granddaughter Lorna.

Places. Bournville: this small British town near Birmingham probably doesn’t speak to you. It is a workers’ settlement built for the employees of the Cadbury factory. Chocolate is actually at the center of the story!

Time. The construction of the novel highlights the major turning points in British history since the end of the Second World War: the coronation of Elizabeth II, the victory in the 1966 World Cup, the death of Lady Diana to name a few…

Author. Jonathan Coe is a great British writer. He was born in 1961 in Birmingham.

This book was read with a lot of empathy and the impression of personal knowledge of the characters

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