Book 9 Review & Interview: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals, Wendy Jones
My 9th Book this year was the lovely novel 'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals' by British author Wendy Jones. It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed and only took me a day to read. In exciting news, Wendy Jones, the author of 'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals' kindly agreed to be interviewed for All Booked Up 2014. This is All Booked Up's first exclusive interview dear readers, and you are in for a treat!
Due to the fact that Australia is ahead of everywhere else in the world (in time and number of animals per square kilometre that want to kill you), the interview was conducted via email.
Amejoys: There is nothing better than having an author describe a novel in her own words. So this is the perfect time to ask if you could you please describe your novel, ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals’, to my blog readers?
Wendy Jones: The novel is about an undertaker, Wilfred Price, in 1924 west Wales. He inadvertently proposes to a woman he likes but soon realises his mistake, especially when he meets Flora. The novel is about Wilfred's work and romantic life and the constraints and gentleness of the time.
I have never been to the UK, let alone to Wales, yet I found myself so easily transported to the small Welsh town of Narberth in which the novel was set. Your descriptions of the physical environment almost made the town seem like a character, was that your intention?
I very much wanted Narberth to be a character and to give the novel a very specific sense of place, to have it rooted.
For a novel that is so often described as ‘charming’, the novel does touch on some serious issues (which I won’t spoil here for those who haven’t read it yet). When writing your novel did you aim to balance the good with the bad, as life often does?
Mostly I wanted the novel to be comforting; there is dark subject matter and it was important that there was a range for me, of what is light and easy, and what is hard to accept.
If ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals’ was made into a movie, who would be your ideal actors to portray Wilfred, Grace, Flora and Dr Reece?
If the novel becomes a movie, I have no idea who would play the parts! Perhaps Antony Hopkins as Dr Reece! I see the characters in my mind's eye so clearly, I can't imagine them as anyone other than they are.
Cover art does have a large part in how readers choose books in bookstores. The old adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover, but the edition I read, with the blue and gold cover, was beautiful. Are you happy with the look of the book? Who did the cover art?
I like the cover very much; it is clear and distinctive. I had no say in it but am very pleased with it.
When I first finished ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price..' I was almost disappointed in the choices of both Grace and Flora. I felt they both made choices that these days would make a feminist cringe. But on reflection, I realised that Grace (And to some extent, Flora) did not have the opportunities that women do today, and that their decisions were not choices, but rather the outcome of events which they coped rather well with. Did you deliberately create storylines for Grace and Flora that would in some way highlight the challenges that women faced in the 1920s?
I thought of Grace and Flora as women of their time, as we all are, and their lives were circumscribed by their time, as ours are. I am not sure how free any of us are, especially women, although Flora and Grace both think of themselves as freer than their mother's and grandmother's generations.
Did you find it difficult to transition from writing non-fiction with your Biography of Grayson Perry, to writing a novel? Do you prefer writing non-fiction, or fiction?
I didn't find the transition from non-fiction to novel writing difficult - they are both the same in that they both demand narrative, and follow strict rules of what a writer has to do to engage a reader. I like writing both; they both fascinate me.
I am very excited to have discovered that you have written a sequel to ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price..', called 'The World Is A Wedding'. Where does this novel pick up, and does it still focus on Wilfred?
The sequel The World is a Wedding starts almost immediately after The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price ends and it is about Wilfred, but also Grace and Flora, as the lives of all three are interwoven more than they realise or perhaps had wanted. They are connected and need resolution and peace with each other and Wilfred, too, feels guilty about how he has treated Grace and the guilt is bothering him.
A huge THANK YOU to Wendy Jones for answering my questions.
And a bigger thank you for bringing us such a lovely novel!
Pop into your local bookstore and buy a copy of 'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals' or the sequel 'The World is a Wedding', you won't be disappointed!
The Good Bits:
For a novel that does deal with some complicated and emotional subjects, it is, as Wendy Jones herself described, a comforting book. It is a charming and enjoyable novel, and will make you want to snuggle up with a pot of tea and buttered welsh cakes and read for a whole day!
The Not So Good Bits:
As I mentioned to Wendy, the ending did leave my feminist senses twitching, but as Wendy explained, the lives of the female characters realistically and truthfully reflected the lives of many women of the 1920s.
4 1/2 of 5 bicycling gentlemen.