Tuesday, 21 August 2012

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

The title of Wendy Jones' first novel sums up just what the story is about, and although it's a bit of a mouthful, it really is the perfect title for this wonderful story.

Looking at the cover, which depicts the back view of a shapely young woman in a beautiful dress, the reader can suppose that many of Wilfred's thoughts centre around his relationships.

The story is set in the small Welsh town of Narbeth in the early 1920s.

Wendy Jones has brought this insular, sometimes petty, often snobbish town and it's inhabitants to life so well.  

Wilfred has lived in Narbeth for all of his life, now in his late 20s, he's been the town undertaker since finishing his apprenticeship under Mr Ogmore Auden some years before.  

Grace Reece has also lived in Narbeth since she was a child.  Grace is the only daughter of the local Doctor and his rather haughty wife, her brother Madoc is in the Army, and the apple of his mother's eye.    

Wilfred and Grace are enjoying a picnic together, when out of the blue he proposes to her.  Grace is delighted, Wilfred is horrified by what he has done, and realises that his mind was turned by Grace's beautiful yellow dress, that showed just a little more cleavage than is acceptable.   Wilfred does not love Grace.

The characters appear quite simple and straightforward at first.  Wilfred has got himself into a situation that he needs to get out of but he has no experience with women as his Mother died four days after he was born and he has no sisters.  He's a kind soul at heart and also knows that if he just dumps Grace, his business will suffer.    Grace is a very unhappy girl, delighted to be 'engaged', and ignoring the fact that Wilfred seems to be avoiding her.

There were times when I wanted to shake Wilfred, and at first I really disliked Grace.  As the story moves on though, the reader learns that Grace is not what she at first seems, and is hiding heartbreak and horror from everyone.  Wendy Jones handles these hidden secrets very delicately, allowing the reader to gradually realise that all is not what is seems in sleepy Narbeth.
Wendy Jones

The sense of place, the characters and the community spirit shine through in this novel.  There is a sprinkling of humour, lots of secrets, passion and wonderful dialogue.   I enjoyed Wilfred Price far more than I expected to and will look forward to more from this author.

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals was published in paperback by Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson on 21 June.

My thanks to Lauren from Constable & Robinson for sending a copy for review.


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