I read and enjoyed ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals’ very recently when I knew I would be receiving this, the sequel to review. I enjoyed Wilfred Price, a charming story of 1920’s Welsh village life, with a slightly dark thread running through it, its peopled with memorable characters, but there was so much left unresolved that I was a little frustrated, and very glad I had the sequel waiting. The events in this novel carry straight on from those in Wilfred Price, and in such a way that I was left fully satisfied this time. I loved this second instalment, at times a quite poignant novel, there is depth and charm in equal measure.
In ‘The World is a Wedding’ there are two story strands – the main story picks up that of Wilfred Price. Following his brief – and later annulled – marriage to Grace Reece, Wilfred is now free to marry his adored Flora Myfanwy – which he does in the first chapter. The second story follows Grace to London, where she has fled following her ostracism from her family. Grace has left Wales with a dark secret, which she goes to some lengths to conceal. Soon she is working as a chamber maid at the Ritz. Here Grace meets her first suffragettes, attends a couple of suffrage meetings and even goes along to a jujitsu class for women.
“Grace glanced around. She had seen what large groups of people – of men – did during the war. And what had been done to them: how they returned –her brother Madoc included –with a disturbed sanity. And a destructive arrogance. She had seen the stupidity of groups and the fantasies they could concoct. Were these women aping men, being called to arms for yet more violence, triumphant and expanded on the fantasy of victory? She had read in the newspaper that Christabel Pankhurst had said the Great War was Gods vengeance upon the people who held women in subjugation. But, as in the War, Grace had no passion for this fight. She didn’t understand what the suffragettes wanted.”
Meanwhile back in Narberth, Flora and Wilfred have to settle down to married life, aware that they don’t really know each other all that well. In the next weeks, Wilfred and Flora must deal with joy and heartache. Flora still nurses an old grief for her beloved fiancé killed in the War, and a new grief for her father – who Wilfred buried. Wilfred – still set on improving himself, nurses his own secret sorrow, for Grace, who he feels terrible guilt for. He quickly realises that she is out there on her own, vulnerable and hurting, and that his great happiness has been possible because of Grace’s disgrace and flight.
I will say no more – as I have a feeling a lot of people will be reading this novel and I don’t want to spoil it – but I have a feeling those who are already fans of Wilfred Price and Flora Myfanwy and who like me worried about poor Grace – will enjoy seeing how their stories come together and resolve.
Although I did enjoy Wilfred Price – and was glad I had read it – I liked this second instalment much more – I could hardly bear to tear myself away from it on Monday night – I had to prise it from my fingers and lay it aside eventually leaving the last 50 pages or so to look forward to the next day. I thoroughly enjoyed the two story strands – the different settings of London and Narberth really helps to move the story forward. There is such a wonderfully resonant Welsh voice running through the whole novel, helping to give it a strong sense of place. Grace’s story is brilliantly done, her isolation and fear, and bewilderment and at the same time curiosity about the suffrage movement helps us to see Grace as an intelligent woman – trying to find her way in a society that is quick to punish those who it sees as transgressors. Wilfred and Flora’s relationship is really very touching, realistically portraying early married life. In the villagers of Narberth Wendy Jones had created a community that readers will relish spending time with.