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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The dazzling new novel from the prize-winning, best-selling author of Middle England.

In the heady summer of 1977, a naïve young woman called Calista sets out from Athens to venture into the wider world. On a Greek island that has been turned into a film set, she finds herself working for the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, about whom she knows almost nothing. But the time she spends in this glamorous, unfamiliar new life will change her for good.

While Calista is thrilled with her new adventure, Wilder himself is living with the realisation that his star may be on the wane. Rebuffed by Hollywood, he has financed his new film with German money, and when Calista follows him to Munich for the shooting of further scenes, she finds herself joining him on a journey of memory into the dark heart of his family history. 

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?

©2020 Jonathan Coe (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Coe is a writer of uncommon decency." (Observer)

What listeners say about Mr Wilder and Me

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Superb.

For anyone who loves historical fiction based in the 20th century and/or loves old Hollywood films, this is a wonderful story to listen to. Jonathan Coe's novels are often based on the absurd aspects of life and politics but this is a more serious offering, based on the life of legendary film director Billy Wilder during the making of one of his last films, Fedora.

The story brings Wilder and his entourage to life and helps the reader to understand his artistic achievements, through the lens of his past in pre and post second world war Europe. It is often very moving, particularly in relation to the Holocaust. There is a lot of subtle humour in the book but Coe has managed to produce a narrative that is both thoroughly entertaining and yet serious and thought-provoking. Billy Wilder emerges as a successful, talented film director, a man with a heart and vision but someone who also has a darker side to his nature. His art is eventually overtaken by the 'bearded young directors' whose cinematic offerings initially meet with his disapproval and frustration when the Hollywood studios will no longer finance his (Wilder's)projects. But his return to Europe to make Fedora brings about changes in him and those around him and eventually he recognises the worth of the younger directors, particularly Spielberg.

I shall definitely read this again; lots to mull and ponder over and an added joy was the discovery of the film Fedora.

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Good story, woeful audiobook

The audio performance is flat at best. At worst the accents and pronunciations are very poor and distract from the story. Abandoned 3 chapters in. I'll be getting the paperback.

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beautiful, tender, lovely

And artful. Coe writes stories about people you can believe in whose lives are barely more interesting than your own but which breathe because JC knows how to give stories life.

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Better for film lovers

Struggled to connect with this book. Llike the protagonist I was ignorant of Billy Wilder or the world of film producing. Unlike the protagonist I didnt learn to care. The loss of Wilder's mother and the horror of the murder of millions of Jewish people came across. This echoed only faintly with the motif of loss in the storyteller.

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A lovely story with great narration

Jonathan Coe writes brilliant, heartwarming stories.

The narrator is brilliant.She does wonderful accents and transmits the pathos in the text.

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Not what I expected but I a good way

Great narration and character voices. Really enjoyed listening to the story.
I chose this book on a past recommendation from someone, not really knowing what it was about. I'm glad I did.

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enjoyable

Great performance, loved the billy wilder "impression". less convinced by the greekness of character

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Fascinating mixture of fact and fiction

Very easy to read and a brilliant insight into Hollywood before more modern directors. An insight into the artistic struggle of Billy Wilder.

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not his best

Whilst I'm a massive fan of Jonathan Coe, I really struggled with this book. Despite a great performance by the narrator, it just didn't grip me.

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Evocative and interesting g

Beautifully narrated. I knew nothing about billy wilder bit recognised the films. The story is interesting and full of humour and pathos.

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Profile Image for Gort
  • Gort
  • 21-03-22

FABULOUS ENTERTAINMENT!

Amazing how J.C. writes like a woman! Amazing how J.C. writes like a woman!