Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Thoughts & Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals Review

This book got great reviews, but personally I found it a little boring. The title is what my husband refers to as a "Dorothy title" - long, ridiculous and probably British. And he's entirely correct. I forgot how I stumbled onto it but the title and synopsis immediately appealed to me. A comedy of manners set in Wales during the 1920's? Perfection! But then, not quite. I found this book to drag until about halfway through and then it just got odd.

Wilfred Price is a young funeral director living in the small town of Narbeth, in South Wales. On a picnic one day, he is overcome by his companion, Grace Reeves', beauty and spontaneously proposes. She accepts and not long after, he panics. He quickly tells her that he doesn't really want to marry her, especially after her meets Flora, a young woman grieving for the recent loss of her father (whose funeral brings the couple together) and the long ago death of her fiance in WWI.

However (SPOILERS FOLLOW): Grace has a secret. Seemingly out of the blue, she tells her father she is pregnant. He immediately assumes the child is Wilfred's and demands the young man marry his daughter. Wilfred goes along with the loveless marriage because he knows that he if he refuses, he will leave Grace is disgrace and will lose his business and possible be run out of town since he abandoned a pregnant woman carrying a child everyone assumed was his. However, he refuses to consummate the marriage, given his love for Flora, who is the only one he tells the truth to.

At this point, I was like, WTF? There was no indication that Grace was pregnant. It seemed to come completely from left field. Even worse, it is later discovered that the child is a product of Grace being raped by her own brother, Madoc. He was introduced in only one scene, which gave no hint that he was a sinister, twisted character. So while the plot moved along faster once the pregnancy was confessed and the marriage took place, it was also so random that I thought I accidentally skipped a chapter somewhere.

The rest of the book follows Wilfred's struggles over what to do and his eventual rebellion against his domineering father-in-law. By the end, he is able to annul the marriage and the book ends with a hopeful scene between Wilfred and Flora. However, poor Grace leaves her family in disgrace and without them knowing the father of her child. Her parents seem to disown her but her father slips her a note encouraging her to write. Wilfred also gave her quite a bit of his savings.  And then that was it. She's gone off to try and make a living and support her child while Wilfred gets his happy ending. I suppose that's the reality for a woman in her situation, but still, she gets kind of shafted: friendly, alone and pregnant. She doesn't even know where she is heading when she leaves.

The biggest issue to me was the lack of development between Wilfred and Flora. They are quickly attracted and drawn to each other, but they don't see each other all that often and seem to spend much of their time together silently cuddling, until he gets up the nerve to confess his marriage. So for the reader, it's not easy to see what makes them so into each other, which makes their eventual ending feel a bit meaningless.

Still, Wilfred is an interesting character and he has a sweet relationship with his widowed father who raised him after his mother died in childbirth. He also has dreams of expanding his funeral business into selling paints and wallpapers. I'm not sure how the two are connected but I would have been interested to see where that went, although with him giving Grace a lot of his money, I don't think that would have gone very far.

Anyway, I found this book to be a let down. It got good reviews on amazon, though, so don't take my word for it. You might love it!

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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