The New York Times Sunday Book Review: "This diverting novel is pure pleasure."
Date: May 2 2014
The best word to describe Jones’s novel is “quaint”: It’s a love story set after World War I, in a small town in Wales, and even its peculiar title recalls a gentler era. In the spring of 1924, Wilfred Price, a shy undertaker in his late 20s who still lives with his widowed father, inadvertently proposes to a childhood acquaintance, Grace Reece. They’re enjoying an afternoon picnic, and she’s wearing a rather distracting yellow dress, the color of “lemon curd.” The words tumble out of Wilfred’s mouth, but before he can take them back, Grace eagerly accepts. Although he intends to admit his error, to be “swift and savage — in the way one had to be when one breaks an injured bird’s neck,” extricating himself will not be easy. Grace’s formidable father, the town doctor, is the sole source of Wilfred’s “customers” at the funeral parlor. And when Dr. Reece learns that his daughter is pregnant — mistakenly believing Wilfred is to blame — he bullies him into marrying Grace. Wilfred, who “didn’t know very much about ladies,” falls in love with another young woman, Flora Myffanwy Edwards. He pursues Flora even as he feels too guilty to leave Grace. (Her pregnancy, he learns, resulted from an act of violence.) Despite the darker elements, a happily-ever-after ending is never in doubt, at least for Wilfred. Taken on its own humble terms — an old-fashioned story exploring first love, loyalty and loss — this diverting novel is pure pleasure.