If you have been waiting for a book with the feel of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, here’s one that fits the bill. In Wendy Jones’ The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals we meet Wilfred Price, who has many of the dear Major’s qualities.
In 1924, after years of apprenticeship, Wilfred, though still a young man, is now the well respected proprietor of the local funeral home in his Welsh town. He spends his days shining his hearse, picking up and preparing dead bodies and crafting new caskets. As the owner of the only funeral home for miles around, he is able to provide a fairly decent life for his Da and himself.
But Wilfred’s life is not complete without a wife which has been weighing on his mind recently. On a picnic date with the lovely Grace Reece in her charming yellow dress, he is so taken by her beauty that he accidentally proposes to her and is shocked when she says yes. After two weeks of not contacting her, he realizes that he must set the record straight and call off their engagement. Grace is heartbroken but soon brings a matter of a serious nature to her doctor father’s attention. Dr Reece then marches down to the funeral home and informs Wilfred that he will indeed marry poor Grace or his reputation and business stature will be ruined. Stunned, and trying to do the proper, expected thing, Wilfred obliges and he marries Grace.
What starts out as an outlandish comedy of errors with Wilfred attempting to follow the dictates of society soon takes a serious tone as Wilfred sees no way out of his life’s unexpected decisions. Wilfred’s heart belongs to another and he has trouble understanding how he got himself into this married predicament. When he finally has a heartfelt conversation with Grace weeks after their wedding, she shares disturbing information with him that will change everything if he uses this information to his own advantage. After thoughtful introspection, Wilfred rallies and attempts to take control of his own life while still trying to protect the feelings of the people around him.
Charming and heartfelt would be appropriate words to describe this debut novel in spite of the appearance of a very unsettling topic late in the book. Those who enjoy this story will be pleased to find it has been optioned for a miniseries by the Downton Abbey producers and there is also a sequel on it’s way. Now, if we could just get Major Pettigrew’s author to follow suit! If you somehow missed Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, here’s a link to my previous post from a few years back.