The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

★☆☆☆☆ (1/5)

As a somber, somewhat lonesome widower, who had kept to himself for a long time, exposition and conversation sure comes to him easily which is not just unbelievable but also borders on the ridiculous. Coupled with freak coincidences which allowed Arthur to go on one adventure after the other made the story quite ludicrous. I doubt if anyone running after a burglar would suddenly indulge in remembrance of the past.

I also found the dialogues didactic and patchy in nature. No one talks about “alabaster skin” and “aquamarine eyes”, that too whilst describing a woman from the past to a complete stranger on phone. Neither does one come across a man in a restaurant who chooses to discuss his love life in order to seek advice from an elderly person.

It is one of those stories where settings, characters and plot points are deliberately installed in places only to aid the flow of the story to its logical conclusion. A myriad of characters are presented, not with an existence of their own, but only to assist Arthur Pepper with finding more about himself.

It is sloppy, careless writing. The skeletal story perhaps had potential but wanes when mere fortuities are crafted out of thin air.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • He wished the two of them were there now, their feet crunching on gravel paths, marveling at cabbage white butterflies fluttering among the roses, looking forward to a big slice of Victoria sponge in the tearoom.
  • They had their own lives now. Where once Miriam was their sun and he their moon, Dan and Lucy were now distant stars in their own galaxies.
  • She loved the elephant charm. We used to look through the emerald and see the world in green.
  • He left radios on in each room so he wouldn’t have to hear his own footsteps.
  • They talked about their loved ones as if they were objects. Miriam would always be a real person to him. He wouldn’t trade her memory like that.
  • Each time she returned, the house seemed to shrink in size. It had once seemed so spacious
  • She’d once thought, in a darker moment, that out of both parents her dad would probably go first. She was sure that her mother would get by. She was self-sufficient and sensible. Her dad on the other hand had a permanently bewildered air about him as if everything was a surprise.
  • He seemed to be able to hone in on a goal and pursue it single-mindedly, without emotion or doubt getting in the way.
  • He felt as if the city embraced him. He had expected it to be through fear of the unknown, but it was through exhilaration.
  • Scarborough College was a swarm of students. They moved as if one, through the reception area and into the corridors that led off it like a termite mound.
  • Arthur thought about how it was possible for memories to shift and change with time. To be forgotten and resumed, to be enhanced or darkened as the mind and mood commanded.
  • You can make memories out of money, but you cannot make money out of memories.

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