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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
Breakfast at Brewer Street by Simon Bardwell opens with a chance encounter between a young vicar and a working girl on a train - a meeting which will lead to life-changing events for both the individuals involved. The novel’s central characters are the Reverend David Diver and his wife Minnie who we follow as they arrive at his newly-appointed first parish, located in North Norfolk. Arriving at the vicarage they find the smelly, unkempt previous incumbent still in residence, and this, coupled with the fact that there are no keys for the vicar’s church, makes their first few days a little awkward. They soon settle down, however, until David, after reading a passage in the Bible, is smitten by a sudden and serious calling to set up a separate ministry in London’s Soho. Taking up the offer to visit the girl he had first met on the original train journey, he makes his way to a brothel in Brewer Street. There, after some initial misunderstandings, he sets out to minister to the fallen girls. From this first meeting, a series of events involving a fistfight, a corpse, a bishop, and David’s arrest provides a lively storyline that will keep the reader absorbed and intrigued.
I thoroughly enjoyed Breakfast at Brewer Street. It is a gentle tale of a young idealistic parson and his interaction with a senior churchman living life right on the edge of rationality and becoming embroiled in the fallout of this man’s actions. The narrative is peopled with well-rounded, believable characters and moves at a leisurely pace, allowing the reader to become acquainted with the book’s protagonists. The well-written, engaging narrative has several twists and turns which lead eventually to a very satisfactory conclusion. I particularly liked the setting of the period, just before the Second World War, and was enchanted by the relationship between David and his wife Minnie. Simon Bardwell has produced a first-class novel and I look forward to reading more work from this undeniably talented author.