Having been married for over 40 years, 69-year-old Arthur Pepper is mourning the loss of his wife. On the anniversary of her death, he finally musters the courage to go through her possessions, and happens upon a charm bracelet that he has never seen before.
What follows is a surprising adventure that takes Arthur from London to Paris and India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met, a journey that leads him to find healing, self-discovery, and love in the most unexpected of places.
Arthur Pepper is a no nonsense Yorkshireman, coming to terms, very slowly with the loss of his beloved wife Miriam. He is still hiding from the neighbour he views as a bit of an interfering do-gooder and trying to run the gauntlet of bereavement advice leaflets and ‘man’ clubs designed to sort him out. His son Dan, is in Australia and his daughter, Lucy, has her own problems, so his relationship with both is not as close as he would like. A year on from her death, he decides to bite the bullet and go through Miriam’s things to donate to charity, his way of acknowledging he has to move on. While doing this he finds a charm bracelet hidden in a boot, which leads him to question everything he thought he knew about Miriam and his relationship with her.
While the premise of the book is not an unusual one in that it deals with a grieving widower who makes a disturbing discovery, the story is tells and the characters we meet certainly are. Arthur is an absolute delight as we follow him on his journey to learn the truth about the bracelet and it’s charms that clearly represent important periods in Miriam’s life pre-Arthur.
The local characters that surround Arthur, are more than bit players and it is easy to be drawn into their lives as well as Arthur’s as they help with his quest. Bernadette, his do-gooding neighbour, develops into a true friend and her less than charming son, starts to develop as Arthur takes him under his wing. His family start to change as they come to terms with the loss of their mother and realise that ‘Dad’ isn’t just a fixture, but a person too. More importantly Arthur starts to see a different side to his own character that teaches us it’s never too late to change and life is really what you make it. In learning about Miriam, he learns even more about himself.
I have no intention of divulging any of the stories, but needless to say they are not what a mild mannered, conservative widower was expecting and it opens his eyes to what his wife was like before he knew her. Does that spoil what he thought about her, or make his marriage a sham – that you’ll need to discover for yourself.
This is a lovely, heartwarming story and Arthur’s charms prove to be both literal and figurative. It is a story with real soul, that gets you involved and has you yearning for a positive outcome. It’s quirky and probably unlikely but no less enjoyable for that and as a debut novel offers the promise of more great things to come.
I received a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.