Sleeve Notes and Debuts

A couple of weeks ago I found out, through a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, that part of a review I’d written for this blog about a book called A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French is now being used in the sleeve notes of the paperback version. Just to be clear, DAWN FRENCH HAS INCLUDED MY REVIEW OF HER DEBUT NOVEL IN THE SLEEVE NOTES OF THE PAPERBACK VERSION!!!  There was some whooping going on in my house that day, I can tell you. Of course, I’m totally cool about it now.

I know it’s not actual publication, but it’s a start.

So thank you, Dawn French, and Penguin, for using my review. To have the opportunity to see my name in in print, in conjunction with DAWN FRENCH(!!!),inside an actual book, has given me the extra bit of encouragement I’ve been needing as I tackle the rewrites of The Empty Mirror and complete my MA.

I always like to congratulate writers (whether they’re Dawn French or not) and say something positive about a book if I’ve enjoyed it. I think it’s important. Writing is a very solitary activity. There’s no one there to give you appraisals or to offer you a pay rise once you’ve been working on something for a year. Usually there’s people saying, ‘Why don’t you get a job you hippie?’ or ‘Haven’t you finished it yet?’ or ‘Bloody hell, what are you writing, the sequel to War and Peace?’ (NB. Annoying comments taken from real life experience) So finding ways to motivate yourself is key.

Most of my motivation comes from reading and reading about the writers who’ve written books I admire, particularly debut novelists. I read a lot of debut novels. I think part of the reason I like them so much is because for the most part, there’s  a purity and a polish about someone’s first book that the second or third book doesn’t always have. You know they must have spent at least a couple of years on it, chiselling away, freting over structure and voice and language and the many different decisions writers make that most readers don’t even think about, until finally, finally they pluck up the courage to send it out into the world and hope beyond hope that this will be it so they won’t have to go back to their unfulfilling full time job without even the dream that one day they might get published.

So when I flicked through a copy of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals, a debut novel by Wendy Jones, I knew I had to buy it. Books like The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals are so wonderfully written, so fresh and original and meticulously crafted they make you feel restless. And that’s a good thing. For me, finding time and space to write can be tricksy.  Anything that can tempt me out of the proclivity to collapse on the sofa at the end of the day and watch The Holiday on DVD for the umpteenth time just so I can pause it and fawn over the scenes featuring the gorgeous house of Kate Winslet’s character, is doing well. So even though I have been on my knees with exhaustion the last few weeks, Jones’ book spurred me on to stay up late a few nights to finish editing a chapter and to rewrite some difficult sections.

So what’s it about?

The blurb on the back of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals gives a good summary, so I won’t try and reinvent it:

Wilfred Price, overcome with emotion on a sunny spring day, proposes to a girl he barely knows at a picnic. The girl, Grace, joyfully accepts and rushes to tell her family of Wilfred’s intentions.  But by this time, Wilfred has realised his mistake. He does not love her. 

On the verge of extricating himself, Wilfred’s situation suddenly becomes more serious when Grace’s father steps in. The young undertaker seems unable to control the swirling mess that now surrounds him and to add to Wilfred’s emotional turmoil, he thinks he may have just met the perfect girl for him.

As Wilfred struggles in an increasingly tangled web of expectation and duty, love and lies, Grace reveals a long-held secret that changes everything…

I loved this book. There’s a lightness of touch to Jones’ writing that was perfectly pitched to capture the spirit of a rural community in 1920’s Wales and the twist at the end of this book is both brilliant and extremely sad. If you’re looking for something  that’s well written, character driven and a little bit different, The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals is for you.

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