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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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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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Wonderful

A beautifully nostalgic piece on age and youth, memory and creativity, the love of cinema and one of its most vital and complex figures.

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Enjoyable melding of fact and fiction

Enjoyed discovering the life of Billy Wilder and his filmography through the eyes of Calista as a young woman and her reflections later in life . The story combines the biographies of both Billy and Callista in a such charming way. The narration of all the character was flawless . Would highly recommend

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A film buff’s dream

This was a delightful book that was beautifully narrated. I can only say, without giving the plot away that anyone who loves films and in particular the wonderful films (at their best) of the late great Billy Wilder, will adore this imaginary journey narrated by a Greek film composer of her memories of the great directors/writer as he makes a late film “Fedora”. A genuine treat especially for people like me!

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  • 16-11-20

poignant great uplifting book

great story told in easygoing style. I didn't really know anything about Billy wilder but fascinating

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HW

A brilliant story which I felt Jonathan Coe wrote just for me. Wistfully nostalgic, wittily realistic, fun with a serious and thought-provoking thread running through it. Marvellous. Absolutely marvellous.

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Distracting & thought-provoking. Superb.

'Whatever else it throws at you, life will always have pleasures to offer - and you should take them'. Jonathan Coe's latest is one of those pleasures.