Sunday, 8 May 2016

Book Review: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
By Phaedra Patrick
Published by Harlequin
Available in hardback & ebook
Paperback -forthcoming

Fans of A Man Called Ove and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared will love Phaedra Patrick's debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.

Arthur's wife has died, and his home is a shrine to her - nothing has been moved, and he maintains it the way she did when alive. He hides from his neighbours who only want to help. But things need to change because he can't carry on like this.

On the first anniversary of his wife's death, Arthur decides it is time to clear out her wardrobe. Hiding in a boot, at the back of the wardrobe, is a charm bracelet, which he doesn't not recognise. One of the charms, a elephant has a phone number engraved on the back... and so Arthur rings, and finds himself discovering that his wife was not only just his 'wife' or 'mother' but someone who had adventures.

Arthur's quest to discover more about his wife takes him to stately homes where tigers roam free, phone calls to India, posing naked for a life drawing class, a trip to Paris, and visiting eccentric writers. This is a heartwarming book about discovering yourself no matter your age.

This book reminded of a Nora Ephron quote, "That very few people end up knowing who you are." This is true in Arthur's case with regards to his wife. I think that sometimes we forget when in all types of relationships (ranging from the sexual, marriage to platonic) that the person(s) next to us has had a life before you met and how easy it is to forget this, and think life began when you both met and indeed that life can end when the relationship finishes. We get so wrapped up in personal bubbles that we forget to ask questions about each other.

On his adventure to discover more about this wife, Arthur ends up going on a journey of discovery about himself and realises that there is life beyond the routine of waking up, and hiding from his neighbours. He no longer needs a strict  routine, ditches the same outfits he always wears, and finds himself more open and wake to the world around him. He has always been defined as a 'husband' or 'father', and this adventure makes him realise that there is more to life than the defined roles.

This is a story about the way relationships can help us through tough times - Arthur becomes closer to his adult children as well as his neighbours, and discovering new friends on his adventures. He has lived a sheltered life from reality but now he is able to see beyond his garden, and embrace these changes.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is packed with humour and wit, and is a great book to read while sitting out in the sun (Pimms optional). You can buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.

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