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

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

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: How do you get to the end of live not having loved the one you've been with, but having been with the one you should have loved? A seriously great novel from a debut author with a promising start to her career.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 264 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Corsair
ISBN: 9781780330563

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It's Spring 1924 in South Wales, and young undertaker Wilfred is going to learn the hard way how serious the trivial can be. Fascinated by a girl's dress - worn very seductively by Grace, who he has met but twice as an adult - he blurts out a marriage proposal. As much as wants to take it back, she won't let him. He tries to move on, leaving her disappointed, especially when he falls for the daughter of a man he buries, but... There are things dangerously spoken, dangerously left unsaid, and a complex web of divided loyalties and enforced connections, in this brilliant debut novel.

Jones certainly has not fallen for the debutante's trick of writing what she knows - this could not be her life and is too roundly complete to be family legend. She certainly must know Pembrokeshire to portray it so well - the village of Narberth is a character itself, and the rural surrounds and coastline propel the plot just as much as the humans. And those humans are perfect,. While Wilfred, the title character, is ever-present, Jones cuts away into the mindset of other people, going over the same conversation twice, say - and all the characters are excellent, from Wilfred's unnamed Da, to Flora his love, and Grace and her parents.

There's technique here too in disguising the approach of a revelation all too easy to guess, but one which leaves us with a superlative narrative. It speaks of village insularity, the naivety of virginal young women - and undertakers who never knew their mothers - and the heartbreaking doubt commitment may bring to those freshly making it, compared to those leaving it for the grave.

I say superlative for it is a sterling story, and not only is it one that those of either gender will engage with fully, but one that can be approached from any viewpoint. Young or old, rich or poor, committed or free, this will hit a mark. This is a plot that will be of your making too, for it could be heartfelt, as in my reading, or sarcastic, say. Certainly there is great humour in among the poignant details that sharpen into purpose as you read on, or think about for ages after. The portable radio, and women's meeting, are both very drolly funny.

It's approaching perfection, and has that bearing through a mannered narration, a concise and careful and measured style. I can't say it is perfect, for very noticeable things jump out at you - a specific dictionary is nearly consulted long before it is bought; advice is too far away, then the adviser is in the ground while having never died inbetweentimes.

But brilliance berated in this way sounds just churlish, so I shall desist. This is a writer new to publishing fiction, writing about a young man and his tangled web and doing it exceedingly well. I loved it, book groups worldwide will love it, and chances are you will too. There, I've committed myself.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy. We also have a review of The World is a Wedding by Wendy Jones.

For those seeking more fiction set around funeral homes, we loved Tethered by Amy MacKinnon.

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Buy The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones at Amazon.com.

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