The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals
Set in a small Welsh town in 1924, Jones’ novel meanders through, as the title indicates, the thoughts and happenings of a young man named Wilfred Price. This easy pace seems reflective of the townspeople characterized within, and the ups and downs of life in a small town during a conservative time. Beneath this unhurried writing, however, lies a rich unfolding of complicated events. At first readers believe that the major occurrences in the novel are Wilfred’s spontaneous (and immediately regretted) marriage proposal to Grace Reece – daughter of the town doctor and wearer of the captivating yellow dress – and the death of Flora Myffanwy Edwards’ father. Traveling through day-to-day life with Wilfred, Grace, and Flora, however, it becomes clear that major occurrences have preceded these events, and readers may find themselves crossing their fingers or holding their breath in hopes that the characters find their way through all of it.
There is grace and tragedy in Jones’ book, drawing readers in to both the loveliness and the pitfalls of small-town life and making them want to read more about all of the residents, like Willie the Postmaster with his new central heating system, and Wilfred’s Da, the gravedigger. The easy flow of the book belies the note of suspense and tragic circumstance contained within, but readers will feel fully transported rather than shocked or offended. Jones never breaks her measured pace, which brings even the nastiest unveilings in the book an almost poetic air.