On the anniversary of his wife Miriam’s death, Arthur Pepper finally decides that it is time to clear out her wardrobe. Hidden in the toe of a boot, he finds a gold charm bracelet which he cannot remember his wife ever wearing. Among the eight charms on it, there is a golden elephant with a phone number inscribed upon it. When Arthur calls the number he is surprised to find the phone answered by a doctor in India who informs him that his wife used to be his ayah (nanny). Arthur is absolutely astonished as he was unaware that his wife had ever been to India. They had enjoyed a 40 year marriage which though very happy, was quite set in routine and rather uneventful.
I just loved following Arthur as he stepped out of his routine and started to find out more about his wife. His bewilderment that his wife had had a whole different life before they met was understandable. I really felt for him as he began to think that Miriam had just settled for him and perhaps was never happy. His emotions as he uncovered the story behind each charm were beautifully expressed and I loved how he began to change as a person with each new discovery. Arthur discovered lots about himself as well as Miriam – “he hadn’t expected to act bravely while being mauled by a tiger……… he offered relationship advice to a stranger……. he confronted a past love rival…..These were qualities he didn’t know he possessed.”
I also felt that Arthur’s relationships with his family and neighbours were a captivating part of the story. He is rather distant from his daughter Lucy and son Dan (literally in his case as he lives in Australia) and starts to try to rebuild the closeness they once had. Neighbour Bernadette was just lovely, caring for all the lonely people near her and Arthur comes to realise just how important a friend she is. He also forms a very unlikely alliance with her son, Nathan, and the two become a support for each other.
I particularly taken with something Arthur says to his daughter: “I’m learning that it’s the things you say and do that people remember you for. She’s no longer here but lives on in people’s hearts and minds.” I also found it very moving how Lucy showed her father just what a wonderful marriage he and Miriam had had when he began to doubt himself.
I don’t usually like to make comparisons with other books because although it can encourage some readers, it can put others off. However, if you liked Harold Fry or Ove or the 100 year old man, I think you will also love Arthur Pepper. It is such a lovely book full of warmth, humour and emotion. It’s an absorbing read, enchanting and dare I say more than a little charming?
My grateful thanks to the publishers for allowing me to read a copy of this lovely book via Netgalley. It will be published by Mira in hardback and e-book on 7th April with the paperback edition to follow in September. You can order a copy here: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
From the back of the book
When Arthur Pepper discovers a mysterious charm bracelet in his late wife’s wardrobe, he sets off on a journey to discover, charm by charm, her secret life before they met.
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.