Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

This novel is set in the suburbs of London in the 1950s. Jean Swinney is a woman approaching 40 who still lives with her dependent and neurotic mother. her only comforts are the Small Pleasures - the first cigarette of the day, an evening glass of sherry, a bar of chocolate or a brand new library book. She works for the local newspaper reporting on mundane events and has her own column of useful household tips and recipes for the family.

The story starts when the editor of her newspaper is contacted by a woman claiming that her ten year old daughter is the result of a virgin birth. He assigns the story to Jean to investigate.

Jean meets the family and finds herself being drawn into their lives and the deeper she goes the more she gets drawn in. Jean is very taken with the mother and daughter and although she doesn't take to the husband initially, as time goes on she becomes fonder of him than she should. Has she been given an unexpected chance of friendship, love and happiness? But at what cost?

I may not have picked up this book - the cover wouldn't have drawn me in and as we all know, we do 'judge a book by its cover'. It was featured on the Sara Cox book show, Between the Covers and hearing the views I decided to give it a try. It certainly didn't disappoint. The main narrative is the mystery element but it's also a story of love and loneliness told with compassion and a quiet humour.

Submitted by Mildred