Every now and then, you read a book that can only be described as nice, and by nice I don’t mean boring. I mean those books that arelovely to read, with characters that feel like your friends and with a story that makes you appreciate what you have in your life. Nice. Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson fits perfectly into the “nice” category. Mr Wigg is a very new addition to the bookstore shelves (only published in July this year in fact). Inga Simpson is an Australian author and I will admit right now that I had never heard of her until reading this book. I don’t think she has a lot of novels published, but if Mr Wigg is anything to go by, any other work by her is bound to be wonderful.
Originally when I picked up this book, I had gone into the bookshop to buy something else. But this was new on the shelves and the cover of it really caught my eye – plus it was the autographed edition, it actually had the author’s signature on the first page. Winning! So I bought it and despite resting all my hopes on a pretty cover and a signature I could barely read, I wasn’t disappointed.
We find ourselves in central NSW, Australia, in the summer of 1971. The Vietnam war is raging on and the South African international sports teams are coming under criticism for the apparent racism in not selecting any players of colour. The world is politically hot and the air in Mr Wigg’s orchard is hot. He lives alone after the death of his wife and his son, who used to live right next door to him, has had to move further away, meaning that he won’t get to see his two adored grandchildren as often as he does. He has a daughter too, but they don’t speak to each other these days. His only comfort is the orchard he has been carefully cultivating since he and his wife first married. But Mr Wigg is getting on in years and his son thinks he should move into town, so that people can keep an eye on him and make sure that he can get help if anything happens to him. That would mean leaving his orchard, and his chooks. Not to mention his wife’s roses and although he can’t look after quite as well as she did, they were still hers. But the thing that’s occupying him the most at the moment, is a new project he’s started, which needs to be finished before he goes anywhere.
I don’t know what I loved the most about this book. I can’t decide whether it was the easy narrative; the stories of The Peach King which Mr Wigg told to his grandchildren; the orchard itself; or reading the characters and knowing that I know someone just like that and being able to see them in that garden (Mr Wigg and his wife are exactly like my aunty and uncle in country NSW – they also have a rose garden and fruit trees). Or maybe it was just the simple humanity of it – an elderly man facing his mortality and reflecting on his life can be a truly beautiful thing if written well, and this is one of those occasions where it has been done justice.
Inga Simpson has done a great job of capturing the very essence of Australia, at a very turbulent time in world history. She is another (soon to be) great Australian author, who just gets it right when writing about this country. Living here probably makes it easier to place myself in the book, Mr Wigg in particular as I’m a country kid at heart, but Australian authors (the good ones anyway) have this great knack of making the Australian landscape seem almost magical. If you’re yet to discover the joy of reading some good Australian fiction, Mr Wigg is a good place to start and I can guarantee it will have you scouring the book stores for some more good Aussie authors!
RATING – 10 out of 10. Can only be described as beautiful (and nice!).
WHO SHOULD READ IT – If you’ve made this far down this post, this book will be right up your alley.
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – Mr Wigg. He encapsulates everything good about regional NSW and is a very well rounded character – you’ll wish he was your grandpa (unless you already have an awesome grandpa).
FAVOURITE QUOTE – This isn’t really a quote, but I was fascinated to discover why rose bushes are planted at the end of rows of grape vines in vineyards. If you’re someone that has always wondered this, I’m not going to tell you. But don’t just go and Google it – read this book and the discovery will be a much nicer experience for you.