Review by Ceri Wheeldon
Set in 1950s England, in Simple Pleasures we meet Jean, who is living what can only be described as a limited life as she works as a feature writer on a local paper to support both herself and her difficult mother.
As she approaches 40 she longs for change but can see no obvious way out, and so takes pleasure in small things where she can, whether that be an uninterrupted soak in the bath or something tasty for dinner.
As she goes about her suburban life, the paper is suddenly contacted by a woman who claims to have had a virgin birth. Although initially dismissive of the idea, it is Jean who is chosen to investigate the story as she strives to keep an open mind as to its vailidity.
Jean finds herself drawn into the lives of Gretchen, her daughter and her husband- opening up a whole new dimension to her life. As Jean befriends the mother and grows close to the daughter she also starts to have feelings for the husband.
Can there be a happy ending for any of them? Why is Gretchen so adamant that her daughter’s was a virgin birth?
Its interesting to see how Jean looks to validate the claim relating to the birth using the medical science available at the time. No quick swab and D&A test, far more complicated!!
I also enjoyed the attention to period detail – and the glimpse into a simpler life devoid of today’s technology and distractions.
Small Pleasures is both a mystery and a romantic novel. It also highlights the sacrifices made by relatively young women in that post war era who took responsibility for , and cared for family members at home. It highlights how restricted the lives of single women were at that time.
Was the claim of the virgin birth revealed to be a miracle or fake?
You’ll have to read it to find out!
Small Pleasures is a gentle and engaging read. You find yourself empathising with all of the characters for different reasons.