The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

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The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JY Saville
Reviewed by JY Saville
Summary: A heartwarming quest in which sixty-nine year old Arthur Pepper uncovers his late wife's charm bracelet and follows a golden elephant on a journey into the past. A book to read if you'd like to give your faith in humanity a boost, and be left with a golden glow.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2016
Publisher: MIRA
External links: [www.phaedra-patrick.com Author's website]
ISBN: 978-1848454361

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On the first anniversary of his wife Miriam's death, Arthur Pepper feels he might finally be up to the task of clearing out her wardrobe. He hasn't got far when he stumbles across a gold charm bracelet he doesn't recognise. If he hadn't been feeling so out of sorts because of the anniversary he would never have rung the phone number he found engraved on the golden elephant. That would have been a shame, because then he would never have set out on his peculiar quest to find out who his wife used to be before she met him. From York to London, Paris and beyond, Arthur pursues Miriam's past and learns things about his wife, his children and himself that he never imagined.

This debut novel from short story writer Phaedra Patrick uses the charms on Miriam's bracelet as markers to structure the tale around, almost as a set of linked short stories, and it works very nicely. A man going on a quest and finding himself is a classic storyline but no less beguiling for that, and Arthur was a pleasant companion for the reader to journey alongside. An endearing everyman, Arthur Pepper is a kind and unassuming pensioner set in his ways and perhaps seeming older than his sixty-nine years at times, at least during the early part of the book. He doesn't do difficult conversations with his grown up children or all the emotional stuff, so he seems to be disconnected from everyone.

As he begins to travel beyond the bounds of York for the first time in ages, Arthur gets to know a host of interesting characters, some far afield and some much closer to home. At the heart of the story though is a question: How well can you ever really know someone? Arthur begins to uncover secrets and uncomfortable truths, not all of them necessarily what they seem at first, and the doubts set in. However, it's when you're going through a rough patch that you find out who really cares.

As well as discovering a thirst for adventure, Arthur finds that he does have a separate existence beyond being defined as Miriam's husband or Lucy and Dan's dad. This revelation is not unusual for women, but it was refreshing in a male character. I liked the fact that it's not just Miriam he misses when he's alone in the house, but the noise and chaos of his children who have long since left home. There was a good exploration of his feeling like he'd missed out on his kids by being the traditional breadwinner, working hard to provide for the family but not always being there to tuck them in at night.

Heartwarming is an over-used description but it does seem particularly apt in this case; I defy anyone to walk away from this novel without a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. There are moments of pathos, plenty of gentle humour and some lovely observations, though some of the conversations seemed a bit stilted.

If you enjoy following Arthur Pepper's quest, you may also enjoy The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick at Amazon.com.


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