It’s as if BridLit director Tanya Bruce-Lockhart is some kind of literary festival magician.
When Richard Osman had to pull out of the festival this week, there was disappointment all round.
His Thursday Murder Club is a hilarious read and the show on Friday 6 November was a sell-out.
So what does Tanya do? She puts her hand in the magician’s hat and pulls out bestselling author Jonathan Coe.
And the Middle England writer steps in at the eleventh hour to fill the slot. He is the author of 13 novels, all published by Penguin, which include the highly acclaimed bestsellers What a Carve Up!, The House of Sleep, The Rotters’ Club, Number 11 and Middle England, which won the Costa Novel of the Year Award and the Prix du Livre Européen.
I’m beside myself. Middle England is one of my favourite reads in recent years. I was thrilled to discover it in the lockdown library in my village – the old telephone box – and consumed it with relish.
It resonated so strongly with my pre- and post-Brexit feelings about the world in general. It was the greatest tonic against the pandemic and I wrapped it up in a jiffy bag and sent it to my sister, who told me she almost wept with empathetic laughter before passing it on to her husband.
It’s now doing the rounds and the whole family loves it.
Coe’s new book, Mr Wilder and Me, has just been published in time for this year’s festival. It’s as if he knew he was coming.
The novel is based on the declining years of film director Billy Wilder, is set in Greece in 1977 and not without a subtle innuendo towards #MeToo.
Says the blurb: “In a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most intriguing figures, Jonathan Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia.
“When the world is catapulting towards change, do you hold on for dear life or decide it’s time to let go?”