Have you ever found an unexpected item, whether in your own home or perhaps a favourite thrift store or antique shop, and decided to try and trace the history of the item? This is what happens to Arthur Pepper when, almost a year after his wife Miriam’s death, he decides it’s time to clear out her wardrobe. Arthur finds a charm bracelet tucked away. It’s a piece of expensive jewellry which he did not purchase for her and which he never saw his conservative wife wear.
Intrigued, Arthur studies the little charms dangling from the gold bracelet. One has a tiny engraving on the back…a phone number. Daringly, quiet, reserved Arthur dials the number and finds himself speaking with a doctor in India who declares Miriam was his former Nanny. Poor Arthur, who thought his wife of 40 years had never left the UK, is shocked but also fascinated.
Thus begins a journey where Arthur tries to discover the meaning between each charm and, at the same time, discovers more about his wife’s hidden life. A rather exciting life led before she became a wife and mother.
From an up close and personal meeting with a tiger to sleeping in a hostel with young women from Germany to visiting a bridal boutique in Paris, Arthur’s quest takes him from one adventure to another. He soon casts off his regimented, solitary life (and his mustard-yellow vest) and is leaving his house and his fern Frederica, meeting new people, learning something new every day, and moving forward in life.
This is the first book by Phaedra Patrick and it is humourous, touching and indeed, charming. But this book should come with a warning. I had plans for my day off, which ended up being postponed as, once I picked up “The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper”, I could not put it down. Let’s hope Patrick is a quick writer and doesn’t make us wait too long for her next novel.
Arthur’s good-hearted neighbour, Bernadette, is always dropping off delicious baked goods at his door. Here’s a recipe of mine worth sharing with a neighbour.
Croissant Bread Pudding
3 extra large whole eggs
8 extra large egg yolks
5 c. half-and-half cream
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
6 day-old croissants
1 c. raisins
Preheat oven to 350F.
In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, cream, sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
Slice croissants in half, horizontally. In a 10″ x 15″ x 2 1/2″ baking dish, make a layer of the croissant bottoms. Sprinkle raisins on top. Cover with croissant tops. Pour egg mixture over croissants. Allow to soaks for 10 minutes. Press down gently.
Set baking dish in a larger pan. Put 1″ of water in the larger pan. Cover both pans with foil, tented so that the top doesn’t touch the croissants.
Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 40 minutes or until custard is set. Cool slightly and enjoy!