In the midst of life there is death. In Wilfred Price’s life there only seems to be death and he is struggling with the personal quest to find a life to be alive in. He knows amongst all the death he encounters we are all alive.
When an invitation to a picnic with Grace, a girl in a yellow dress, on a sunny day prompts a rather rash and impulsive question by Wilfred, all of a sudden he finds that he is alive. However, he soon begins to regret his rash question and has to find the courage to tell Grace the truth.
Grace is keeping secrets of her own and little does Wilfred know that actually his impulsive question has led him to solve a problem for Grace but incur the wrath of Grace’s father. Putting in jeopardy his own position within the local community. Gossip would be able to ruin his growing business of Funeral Director and he strives to be the best, as the title of the novel suggests. Ever present in his thoughts are the teachings of his master and Wilfred uses these to keep himself in check throughout the book.
And so this rather slow and thoughtful story meanders on as Grace and Wilfred exist together but so far apart. Wilfred seeks solace in his work and with conversations with his father, realises that you cannot live a whole life of unhappiness. Wilfred discovers the confidence he needs through the love of someone else, but he must remain true, and he is utterly confused as to the right thing to do and the right way to go about it. Dealing with death seems easier.
Grace has to deal with her family, her father the local doctor and her mother are rather pious and despite the happy outcome they desire, they seem to be grieving the loss a daughter her being ever present whilst rejoicing in their son, who has gone off to fight in the Army. Grace needs to do something to gain their attention.
The turning point of the novel, is somewhat of a surprise, although I did have my suspicions and the ending leaves open many unanswered questions and possibly there could be more to come. I wanted to know how well Wilfred Price gets on as being the purveyor of superior funerals. I cared about Grace and was rather angry with her parent’s attitude. I enjoyed hearing Wilfred’s father speak and the advice he gave as well as learning about life in a small community reeling still from the aftermath of the First World War and the influenza outbreak and trying to restart many stopped lives, whilst in the midst of this life there is still death. A short story which actually could be so much longer, but it did not need to be. Captured just right.
I have to confess my morbid curiosity was the reason I chose this book to read. Not expecting something gruesome just how funerals and death is dealt with. However, I got more, it is a slow story as I mention in my review, but I don’t mean that it was not going fast enough, it was going at the pace it should have done – slow and gentle. All reflective of the blossoming relationships in the novel that develop.
I look forward to seeing what else this author writes.