Small Pleasures, Clare Chambers


January 2024

It took me a while…Small Pleasures was first published, to immediate adoration, in 2020. It’s so popular that it was reissued last year, in late 2023 (the gorgeous cover shown here).

But the first copy I bought ended up in the washing machine So blissfully happy I was that Sunday morning to creep downstairs early with a basket of washing to pop in, a book nestling on top to read with a hot tea before the others woke…so confused was I for the next three hours as I searched for the book…so annoyed was I during the half hour I spent vigorously shaking out every last scrap of paper from every last item of clothing I’d washed my book with…

But when I finally got there, Small Pleasures delivered, and much more. An acute portrait of so many small lives and small pleasures in a 1950s suburb of south-east London, hung around Jean Swinney’s investigation, for the local paper she works on, of a mother’s claim to parthogenesis (I had to look this up too, don’t worry) for her sweet young daughter.

Swinney pursues her story with vigour, finding out more about herself along the way. This is smart but heart-wrenching stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

It is also writing that makes me want to be better, to fit a life’s experience into phrases here and there. Onwards.

I bought both of my copies second hand from World of Books. It is a DAILY struggle to desire to support writers by buying books, and to need to support my own bank balance and bookshelves by exercising some restraint