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This novel is set in Narbeth, a small town in South Wales, during 1924. Wilfred Price, the "Purveyor of Superior Funerals" lives with his father, a grave digger, in the place where he has grown up and hopes to make his business a success and become a citizen of some status and standing. When we meet Wilfred, he is having a picnic in the garen with Grace Reece, the daughter of Dr Reece. Overcome with the emotions of the sunny afternoon, and Grace's new yellow dress, he proposes. This is something which, on reflection, he is horrified by. Finally, he tells her that the engagement is off and gets on with his life. Getting on with his life involves the beautiful Flora, whose fiance died in the Great War, and whose father he is to bury. However, situations change suddenly and Wilfred finds himself forced into a situation he is not ready to accept.

There are few novels which you cannot put down, but this is one of them. Wilfred is a lovely character, full of charm and intelligence. I adored his sweet father and you have sympathy for both Grace and Flora as the novel unfolds. The characters are wonderfully written, the book itself flawless. Although Wilfred is an undertaker, there is much humour in this book, particularly in the sayings from Mr Ogmore Auden, who trained Wilfred and whose pronouncements litter the book. These range from, "refrain from dwelling on thoughts of a lewd nature while in the presence of the deceased. Especially when using a sharp tool..." and "as long as you're reading, you're learning," which leads Wilfred to buy a dictionary to improve his vocabulary. I have a feeling we will all be hearing a lot more from this author, judging by a debut which is so masterfully written, offering a thought provoking and intelligent read with humour, pathos and incredible charm.
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VINE VOICEon 20 April 2013
In the midst of life there is death. In Wilfred Price's life there only seems to be death and he is struggling with the personal quest to find a life to be alive in. He knows amongst all the death he encounters we are all alive.

When an invitation to a picnic with Grace, a girl in a yellow dress, on a sunny day prompts a rather rash and impulsive question by Wilfred, all of a sudden he finds that he is alive. However, he soon begins to regret his rash question and has to find the courage to tell Grace the truth.

Grace is keeping secrets of her own and little does Wilfred know that actually his impulsive question has led him to solve a problem for Grace but incur the wrath of Grace's father. Putting in jeopardy his own position within the local community. Gossip would be able to ruin his growing business of Funeral Director and he strives to be the best, as the title of the novel suggests. Ever present in his thoughts are the teachings of his master and Wilfred uses these to keep himself in check throughout the book.

And so this rather slow and thoughtful story meanders on as Grace and Wilfred exist together but so far apart. Wilfred seeks solace in his work and with conversations with his father, realises that you cannot live a whole life of unhappiness. Wilfred discovers the confidence he needs through the love of someone else, but he must remain true, and he is utterly confused as to the right thing to do and the right way to go about it. Dealing with death seems easier.

Grace has to deal with her family, her father the local doctor and her mother are rather pious and despite the happy outcome they desire, they seem to be grieving the loss a daughter her being ever present whilst rejoicing in their son, who has gone off to fight in the Army. Grace needs to do something to gain their attention.

The turning point of the novel, is somewhat of a surprise, although I did have my suspicions and the ending leaves open many unanswered questions and possibly there could be more to come. I wanted to know how well Wilfred Price gets on as being the purveyor of superior funerals. I cared about Grace and was rather angry with her parent's attitude. I enjoyed hearing Wilfred's father speak and the advice he gave as well as learning about life in a small community reeling still from the aftermath of the First World War and the influenza outbreak and trying to restart many stopped lives, whilst in the midst of this life there is still death. A short story which actually could be so much longer, but it did not need to be. Captured just right.
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Already optioned for a miniseries by the producers of Downton Abbey, this novel has everything that will make this projected series a huge, popular success – a young, ingratiating main character who bumbles along as he tries to sort out his life; a woman to whom he becomes inadvertently engaged and who turns out to be a character worthy of great empathy; another woman who has still not recovered from her loss during World War I; and a Welsh setting in 1924 in Narberth, a small, rural town in Pembrokeshire in which everyone knows everyone else’s business. World War I is over, and the many young men from Narberth who were killed in the war have left behind broken hearts, ruined lives, and devastated families. Young men like Wilfred Price, who have not served in battle, have escaped many of the emotional horrors of the war, insulated from this reality because their professions have been considered essential to their community.

Wilfred, age twenty-seven, is a conscientious funeral director who also makes the caskets and does all the work involved in a funeral and burial, and he is anxious to expand his business, perhaps by selling wallpaper in a front room of his establishment. Wilfred is not looking for love when he sees Grace Reece, the daughter of the local physician, at an afternoon picnic, but he is suddenly mesmerized by her dress. For Wilfred, “it was not only how she got into the dress…He wondered, too, how Grace got out of it.” Overcome with his fantasies, Wilfred hears himself asking her to marry him, a dramatic development which he recognizes instantly as a mistake, even as Grace is saying, “I would be delighted.”

As the action develops over the next few months, the novel becomes ironic and almost farcical, but though Wilfred sometimes seems far too innocent to be completely believable, his predicaments inspire empathy, not laughter. As he tries to avoid hurting anyone, he comes to realize, belatedly, that the responsibilities of adulthood come with obligations; he needs to figure out is how to fulfill these obligations without causing pain to the people to whom he feels obligated. As this comedy of manners of the “simple” life becomes more complicated, the characters are revealed as humans, not stereotypes, people living in the particular time and place which have shaped them.

Author Wendy Jones ultimately makes us admire, and sometimes wish for, the simplicity of life a hundred years ago. We care about the characters, and we wish for their happiness, perhaps because they remind us of our own dreams when we were their ages. However charming and sweet this story may be, it is never saccharine or sentimental, and as Wilfred experiences a belated coming-of-age, the reader cheers his growth and imagines his future. Readers who yearn for an old-fashioned tale in which time seems to have stopped will cheer this novel, a story which will lend itself beautifully to a British mini-series centered on the life of a common man, instead of an aristocrat.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 January 2012
Don't be misled by the charming cover because you will find a much darker tale at the heart of this seemingly unassuming book set in rural Wales in the 1920`s. Our hero Wilfred finds himself embroiled in a complicated love triangle (despite the advice of his funereal mentor Mr Auden forbidding `fancy business with the ladies') with a quite shocking secret at its heart that hits you square on and makes you reassess the predicament that he and Grace (his intended) find themselves in, further complicated by Wilfred's illicit love for the emotionally battered Flora. Alongside this, the relationship between Wilfred and his `Da' is beautifully drawn adding a sense of stability to Wilfred's complicated life and the writing throughout regarding human relationships seems so understated but leads the reader along effortlessly. The story is punctuated by moments of mordant wit (mainly in the good advice dispensed by the aforementioned Mr Auden) and then by turn injections of extreme pathos which really makes you care about the characters and ponder on their fate after the last page is turned. An accomplished debut that I can wholeheartedly recommend for those who like books that make you think...
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on 2 August 2013
This is a thoroughly delightful tale which deserves to be widely read. The narrative centres on the eponymous Wilfred Price. In his innocence, integrity and simple dignity Wilfred reminds us of the importance of these values, and made me wonder if they are as present today as they were in the early twentieth century.

Essentially this is a love story, but there is nothing sentimental nor cloying. The plot explores the themes of parenthood, truth and honour through the experiences of this young undertaker. There is a great deal of gentle humour and wry wit. Wilfred is so likeable that readers cannot fail to feel for him and with him.

The style is distinctive and effective; Wendy Jones has found a unique voice to tell her cleverly crafted story.If you enjoyed 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' you may find that this book has a similar warmth, quirkiness and it too is uplifting.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2014
Life is a series of choices and decisions. Some of them are made by us and others are made for us. But no matter how they're made and by whom, our lives are the sum of those choices and decisions. British author Wendy Jones could have placed her book, "The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price: Purveyor of Superior Funerals", in any time and given us any character and have made her point about choices and decisions and their effect on a man's life.

Set in the Welsh countryside in 1924, the main character, Wilfred Price, has made something of his life. The son of a poor widower who has lost his wife in childbirth, Wilfred has apprenticed himself to a funeral director and learned the trade. He has returned to his home town and opened up his own funeral home and waits for the bodies to arrive. And they do arrive; Wilfred finds himself a man-on-the-rise. In the sixth year after the end of The Great War, England is a land of quiet sorrow. Men who didn't return from the war and those who returned but are damaged either physically or emotionally are mourned by those who loved and cherished them. Along with war, the influenza epidemic continues to take lives of those on the back home. Wilfred Price decides, now that his business is established, that it's time to take a wife. He impetuously proposed to a local miss - Grace - the daughter of the town's doctor. He soon regrets his decision to propose to this bride of choice and he breaks off his engagement. While on the job, Wilfred meets the daughter of a recently buried man who he falls in love with. Then, a decision is made by Grace's father - a decision totally at odds with what Wilfred wants - and he marries Grace.

"Thoughts and Happenings" is filled with what these choices and decisions. Some are made by people with full knowledge of whatever facts there are and some are made blindly. Some are good and some are...bad. Wendy Jones writes well of the those sad times in the mid-1920's and does an excellent job of giving her three main characters and the many supporting ones nuanced portrayals. It's a very good novel and may cause you to think of all the choices and decisions you've made that you wish you could - possibly - reverse.
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on 18 April 2014
It was an immense pleasure to enter the world that Wendy Jones evoked in this book. The thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price takes place in a small town in west Wales and Jones writes with such a sure touch about places and people she knows that we are drawn in from the start.
The eponymous Wilfred wants to be a decent and useful member of his community but he also longs for love (and the sensuality) of a good woman, and it’s this which leads him, in the first instance, into potential disaster with the wrong partner. This initially sets him on a quest to disentangle himself from the mess of his own making, but ultimately, it requires of him the strength and character to overcome local conventions and prejudices - and his own - to have and to hold the love of his life.
Jones delivers all of this with equal portions of affection and wit, to make us care care about Wilfred and his beloved Flora, and to will them to win through, but it also induces us to empathise with less likeable, more unstable characters - the true measure of a book that has both lightness of touch and depth of feeling.
There’s a very dark seam in the plot that goes a touch under-explored, perhaps, but it’s easy to see why Jones chose not to exploit this too much, for fear of undermining what is a genuinely charming and affecting story.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 December 2015
I started this book not really knowing what to expect. It was a choice for January for our local book group so I hadn't picked it out to read. It's set in Wales in 1924 and the social mores of the time are well observed. Wilfred, in a moment of being susceptible to a charming girl at a picnic, proposes. He realises he doesn't love the girl and wants to back out. But the situation is more complicated that he thought and Wilfred is an honourable man. I love the way little details are dropped into the story and we are faced with the insoluble problem. Wilfred has to get around the difficulties – not of his own making – while remaining true to himself.

I really enjoyed this book and found it both charming and thought-provoking. I suspect this kind of situation could well have cropped up in many a family as people were less sexually aware than we are today. It's one of those stories you could sum up in a couple of sentences but, told as well as this, it makes for a really good read.
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on 25 November 2012
I was fortunate enough to be sent a free copy. I was looking for something simple and reasonably quick to read and this fitted the bill perfectly.

Set in 1924 in a quiet Welsh villiage, a simple storyline and characters. Wilfred is the local funeral director. He proposes out of the blue to a local lass and then quickly regrets doing so. He tries to amend the situation but finds it difficult to voice his feelings. Things get complicated and another young lass catches his eye while carrying out a funeral. The village is small and any out of the ordinary day to day events would soon be gossiped about, and folks reputations scarred. The characters develop well and the complications dealt with in a sensitive way.

This is a lovely, gently written book with likeable character. I enjoyed it, if a bit slow to start, but it ended up being a little bit of a page turner
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on 4 December 2013
It is based on a premise that a man would totally sacrifice himself for a woman he doesnt love while he's madly in love with another woman. Not only that but he knows that the woman he's being manipulated into marrying is pregnant with someone else's child. I found it so unbelievable i found it difficult to finish. The author could write a book the length of War&Peace but not the quality. 1 page could be on making a pot of tea with the red teapot which brought back memories of when her mother bought it when she was a little girl; 1 page could be on the easy chair by the fire where her grandad used to curl up and sleep in it after lunch; i could go on and on. It would suit some people who like this style but didnt suit me.
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