Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals - Wendy Jones

'Wilfred was beginning to realise that the profession of undertaker wasn't much use to him when it came to matters of romance.'

Wilfred Price is the undertaker in the Welsh village of Narberth in Pembrokeshire. One day in 1924, quite unintentionally and just swept up by the moment, Wilfred impulsively proposes marriage to a girl, Grace, whilst at a picnic. As soon as he has done it, he wishes he hadn't, as he realises he doesn't love her at all. He decides that he will explain this to her, and believes he can resolve this awkward situation. But extricating himself from what he has done isn't going to be as straightforward as he might have hoped. Wilfred has always taken pride in his work, bearing in mind at all times the guidelines imprinted in his mind by Mr Ogmore Auden, his apprentice-master in all matters funereal. Wilfred was used to a simple life, but subsequent to the events in the opening pages of the story, his life is anything but. He then meets a woman he thinks he really could and does love, and then Grace reveals a secret that will further confuse and complicate matters for Wilfred.

The author has captured these characters beautifully, and painted a convincing, well-observed picture of life in a small rural village, with everyone knowing everyone else's goings-on, and no one wanting to be the brunt of village gossip. At the same time, she illustrates the love of the place and the country felt by Wilfred's father as he digs the graves; 'he was cutting the good Welsh earth, the fields of which had fed his family for generations and which he would in turn nourish with his own body.' This is a place that instills both love and yet imposes a sense of limitation in the inhabitants, 'a town that pretended innocence and only allowed for innocence.' 

Wilfred has a contented life, living with his father, his mother having passed away many years ago. Wilfred therefore has little idea about women and relationships. 'Wilfred didn't know what marriage involved. Because his father was widowed, Wilfred had had no insight into the day-to-day goings-on of marriage, hadn't grown up enveloped in one. He imagined the worst ones were like Punch and Judy's marriage.' When considering a partner for himself, he wonders, 'What did a man look for in a wife,...Was it cooking? Cleaning? Cleaning would be handy: neither he nor his da were very particular around the house and it could get a bit much sometimes.'

This is a gentle and sweet debut novel from Wendy Jones, written with humour and an insight into love, relationships, loss, and the damage that pride and secrecy can cause. The author writes with warmth and compassion towards her characters, the nervousness and delicate feelings as they tiptoe around the truth of their emotions, and she demonstrates a keen awareness of the social situation and restricted possibilities, especially for women, during those times. I found it delightful to read and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Published by Corsair, an imprint of Constable and Robinson

Thanks to the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this novel to read and review.


  1. What a title!

    Sounds like a lovely read and going on my wishlist.
    Thanks, Lindsay


    1. Yes a quirky and lovely title! Thanks Carol. I hope you'll like it too x

  2. This sounds different, thanks for reviewing Lindsay


    1. Thanks Lainy, it's quite deceptively gentle.

  3. It's now on my risi wishlist :D



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