Breakfast at Brewer Street


Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
203 Pages
Reviewed on 09/28/2020
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    Book Review

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.

Jamie Michele

Breakfast at Brewer Street by Simon Bardwell is a historical fiction novella that follows the lives of two men of the cloth and their own personal journeys, which divert into directions neither really could have foreseen and converge under even more unlikely circumstances. Reverend David is a rural vicar who, following some rather serendipitous occasions, has something of a revelation. He believes he is being called by God to minister to what the church would describe as “fallen women”, ie: prostitutes. His wife is ultimately supportive but cautions him to remember whose work he's doing and that she is the woman he's chosen as a wife. As his trips to London grow longer and he forms friendly connections with the working girls at a brothel on Brewer Street, David's wife begins to reach out in further lengths to recapture the attention of her husband. All the while, a bishop known to David and the women he's ministering to throws a spanner in the work.

Breakfast at Brewer Street is a cozy read with a slow, simmering but satisfying plot. Simon Bardwell does well in building David's character and for the reader, the development is enough to solidify a warm affiliation with the protagonist. Initially, David comes across with an almost surreal amount of naivete, struggling through a series of internal conversations with God and thumping the Good Book with well-intended but not well thought out fervor. This changes when his wife Minnie enters the picture and the authenticity of a young vicar in a sheltered 1938 pastoral village starts to become clearer. From here the narrative transitions from the woefully innocent vicar to a more literary look at the life, times, and relationships built in a universally English landscape. This is a really good story and I'd encourage readers to give it a try. I wouldn't have wanted to while away my afternoon any other way.

Edith Wairimu

Set in 1938, Breakfast at Brewer Street by Simon Bardwell reflects on the application of Jesus’s life and teachings through the lives of two clergymen. On a train bound for London, David, a vicar in charge of a small parish in Norfolk, meets Rosie, who mentions that she works in a brothel. David later has an epiphany and feels called by God to reach out to more people beyond his congregation, especially to women engaged in prostitution. After getting his wife’s consent and without a specific plan in mind, he decides to meet with Rosie again, this time at the brothel where she works on Brewer Street. The visit becomes the start of more meetings and revelations that change the lives of the people involved.

In Breakfast at Brewer Street, Simon Bardwell presents the teachings of Jesus in an empathetic way, pointing to the truth but also showing compassion. David and his wife, Minnie, are developed well. Their attitudes, personalities, and points of view are both entertaining and profound. I loved that both were down-to-earth and good-natured. The pace is fast but no significant details are left out. The novel is also well organized. Each chapter has a central event that is ably described before moving on to other parts of the plot. Supporting characters’ identities and attitudes are also developed and their stories also point to the book’s themes. Breakfast at Brewer Street by Simon Bardwell is an insightful Christian work that separates real love for people and commitment to the teachings of Jesus from pretentious religious piety.

Soumya Sreehari

David is the new vicar of a small parish in north Norfolk. He and his wife, Minnie, arrive with lots of enthusiasm to do good work. As they settle down into their new lives, David has an epiphany that makes him start a peculiar project. Breakfast at Brewer Street by Simon Bardwell is the story of a devout vicar who embarks on a strange mission. David’s mission brings him to Brewer Street in the red-light district of London, where he forms a strong friendship with Rosie and Violet. The story unfolds as David performs his duties in his parish and furthers his mission in Brewer Street. These two aspects of his life, though separate, find ways to tangle themselves together. David strives to do his best in both worlds.

Set in 1930s England, Simon Bardwell’s Breakfast at Brewer Street is a study of human psychology as much as it is the story of a progressive vicar. As David and Minnie begin their lives in the vicarage, they come to understand the complexities of human nature. The characters display the fallibility of human nature in a visceral form. As the story progresses, David finds people in his own revered profession stooping to unimaginable deviant behaviors. I found the honest portrayal of life in Brewer Street refreshing. Just like David seeks to help the women in Brewer Street, Simon’s narrative is non-judgmental. Through a series of twists and turns, there are valuable insights into relationships – what makes and breaks them. I found Breakfast at Brewer Street a thought-provoking and insightful read.