I was drawn to The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper for two reasons: its quirky title and its elderly main character. I'm always fond of something a bit quirky and after reading books such as A Man Called Ove and Last Bus to Coffeeville, I've also fallen in love with main protagonists that are a little older, so bringing these two together sounded like the perfect match. And it was. It's been a while since I've been so completely and unexpectedly charmed by a novel as I was by this one. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper was sweet, surprising, adventurous, funny – a lovely and life-affirming read.
On the one year anniversary of his wife's death, Arthur Pepper decides that he is ready to take on the emotional challenge of sorting through her belongings and donating them to charity. What he hadn't counted on was that he would find something tucked away in a corner that he didn't recognise. Arthur and Miriam had been happily married for over 40 years and he thought that he knew everything about her. But when he finds an expensive gold charm bracelet, which he never saw Miriam wear, he starts to wonder if he knew her at all. There are charms in the shapes of a tiger, a paint palette, a book, a heart and even an elephant with a beautiful and expensive looking stone set into it. Upon closer examination, Arthur sees a phone number etched into the back of the elephant and once he dials it he starts on the adventure of a lifetime.
Arthur is a man of rituals, he gets up every day at 7.30am to shower, get dressed and have breakfast at 8am. He waters his fern, Frederica, and he usually hides from his neighbour Bernadette when she arrives on his doorstep with yet another pie for him as he believes he is one of her lost causes. But as Arthur goes on a journey to find out about the stories behind each of the charms on the bracelet, his routine for over 40 years is thrown out of the window. He not only learns surprising things about Miriam's past, but he also uncovers more about himself; this is a journey of self-discovery as much as it is one of discovery.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper was pure perfection. From the gripping story to the hilarious encounters Arthur has on his voyage and from the beautiful message within the pages to its charming protagonist, there was nothing I didn't love about this book. Arthur is perhaps not the most likeliest of heroes, especially in the beginning of the novel, but his sometimes foolish yet always kindhearted actions throughout created the most wonderful moments. He is absolutely lovely and while it takes meeting an assorted cast of quirky characters for him to find out more about himself as much as Miriam's past, when he does it leads to some beautiful, though emotional, re-connections with the people in his life.
It has been a while since I shamelessly gushed over a novel, but this one is definitely deserving. When I started on the journey with Arthur I thought it might be an exciting adventure that would help him move on from the rut he'd gotten stuck in and make him understand that Miriam would want him to enjoy the remainder of his life, even though she was no longer a part of this. And while that was certainly a large part of the story I wasn't prepared for quite how poignant the journey would be or how absolutely hilarious (especially with the tiger, oh Arthur). This is Phaedra Patrick's debut novel and already so incredibly good, needless to say I am beyond excited what she will have in store for us next.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper was an utterly lovely and beautiful read. This is a great story with even greater characters. Life-affirming and heartwarming, it's impossible not to fall in love with Arthur Pepper and his both joyful and poignant journey of self-discovery.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is published by Mira on 7 April 2016 and you can buy a copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
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