Small Pleasures

51VW-URDewL._SY346_Jean works as a features editor and when Gretchen Tilbury contacts the North Kent Echo claiming her child is the result of a virgin birth, she just has to investigate. The facts appear to be resolute and at first it is difficult to prove anything either way, but in following a trail of historical clues, Jean discovers a tantalising glimpse of life beyond a future built on caring for her mother and working on the paper writing trivial articles. I’m in two minds about this book. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t love it because of the ending, because of the pacing, and because of the overall subject matter of the virgin birth. There’s a wonderful, authentic sense of the fifties era, and I’ve always loved the observational detail Chambers brings to her work and the characters are as always well-fleshed-out. I thought the first half felt a bit aimless and bogged-down in domestic trivia; although this aspect ultimately makes sense of the title. Everything picks up pace when Gretchen leaves her husband for another woman, and Jean sees not only her chance to escape life with Mother, but to finally be able to lay some romantic claim on Howard. The build to the denouement solves the mystery of the virgin birth, and it seems Jean is almost assured of a happy ending – until the final few pages when life deals an unexpected, tragic blow. It’s a slow, sad, subtle read.
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