• ★★☆☆☆

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick

This book may feature run-ins with tigers and chases through the streets of London, but it feels more like a quiet sit down with a cup of tea and the loving company of old friends.

It’s a sweet, sentimental and a delicate exploration of grief, memory and identity, shown through the eyes of 69 year-old Arthur Pepper.

A year on from the death of his beloved wife, Miriam, Arthur finds an old charm bracelet he had never seen in their 40 years of marriage. He sets out to find the meaning of the charms, and discovers a host of fascinating and surprising stories from her life before they met.

But it’s the subtle, emotional quest which accompanies Arthur’s actual one that is the warm, glowing heart of the story. He questions the simpleness of their life together, shown in the new context of her youthful adventures; and he questions his own nature and choices as he steps outside of his comfort zone and finds that he likes it there.

The most touching elements of the book are the small ones; like two grieving characters discussing the guilt they feel at breaking old, shared, habits, however trivial.

The journey of Arthur is supported by a charming crew of supporting characters, all interesting and nicely sketched, and all seemingly designed to question prejudices Arthur probably didn’t realise he had.

This is a gentle tale of self-discovery, neatly structured and delicately told. It celebrates normal life in all its mundanity, while managing to never be mundane.

Published: 7th April 2016, MIRA UK

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