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Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals
on 1 January 2012
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.