My book review of 'Mr Wilder and Me' by Jonathan Coe

Mr Wilder and Me

by Jonathan Coe
Mr Wilder and Me
by Jonathan Coe

I loved the idea of this book. Having come to Jonathan Coe a little late with 'Middle England', I was eager to pick up this beautifully packaged short novel. And there were elements of it I very much enjoyed. However, not knowing anything about Billy Wilder, I felt I was at a disadvantage because the author is clearly a fan and I never really felt I got to know him properly.

Calista is the narrator and we meet her in a charming scene at a restaurant in LA. She's on a trip to America as a young woman and has been befriended and then deserted by a new friend, Gill. Dressed inappropriately for the meal and unfamiliar with the status of her hosts, Calista realises this is a significant meeting.

She's invited shortly afterwards to join Wilder and his crew filming in Greece, then later following them to Munich. We are given an insight to film making but also Calista's naivety proves a way for Wilder to share his concerns about how his work is being received in the light of changing fashions.

There are some great scenes, and I enjoyed Calista's coming of age journey, but perhaps I need to watch some of Wilder's films and read again to fully appreciate this story.

Review date: January 2022
Publication date: 1st July 2021