I take small pleasures to be a cup of tea in the morning, walking the dog in a nice quiet cemetery in the sun. Having a glass of something nice with a mate. Those are small, but not inconsequential things that bring me happiness and keep the equilibrium level in my life. For some people however, the small pleasures are so small that it’s like they’re starved and so when they experience these small pleasures they gorge themselves and we all know how that normally ends.
Jean Swinney is an unmarried journalist, living with her ill and neurotic mother in a South East London suburb in the 1950’s. She has very few small pleasures. So it’s no surprise that when she is approached by Gretchen Tilbury who claims to have a child born of a virgin conception, Jean gorges herself on the relative beauty of Gretchens’ child, her life and the rest of her family. This book is part mystery sleuthing story, part love story, part flash back to the 1950’s and all clever story telling.
Clare Chambers has somehow managed to create these unassuming characters, who would never say boo to a goose (that seems like an era appropriate saying) and yet who are all vibrant and vivid. Jean, especially, is portrayed as this drab, unexciting person and in fact that’s what she thinks of herself, and yet she’s so strong and savvy and brave – she’s a delight to read about.
Without giving anything away, I can honestly say I didn’t like the ending – but that’s just my personal preference. It doesn’t take away from the fact that this book is in itself a small pleasure.