Widows and Orphans: Reviews

‘Michael Arditti’s hugely enjoyable new novel… Arditti skilfully marries social and personal themes. The picture of the decaying town is broadly satirical, yet there is nothing satirical in his treatment of personal relations; his characters are seen in the round, and presented with understanding and sympathy. Duncan especially is a triumph, clumsy and often tactless, but an honourable man who acts in accordance with the dictates of his conscience.
One of the many pleasures of this novel is the range and depth of the author’s sympathies. Moreover, Arditti has a fine eye for the significant detail and the novel is beautifully constructed… It is funny and moving and deeply tender.’

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘Arditti’s fictional Francombe is a familiar seaside town and a brilliantly revealing microcosm of a society where greed and power are embraced… Widows and Orphans is powerfully realistic.  Arditti has written an uncomfortable but very readable novel about the careless greeds of the way we live now.’

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

‘His novels tend to explore themes of morality and modernity, often using the Church as a stage,  His latest, however, uses a different struggling institution – a local newspaper – as a lens on a community going through upheaval and change.  Widows and Orphans is set in a fictional seaside town, where the local newspaper editor and proprietor, Duncan… tries to draw an ethical line with his head of advertising sales and fend off the unscrupulous local developer who wants to rebuild the town’s treasured historical asset as “Britain’s first X-rated pier”.  Thrown in are several troubled teenagers, a vicar struggling with his sexuality, two wonderful elderly mothers, a disgraced picture editor, and a host of other minor characters with beautifully filled in interior lives and back stories.’

Katy Guest, Independent on Sunday

‘Hot topical issues and thorny moral dilemmas have long been grist to Michael Arditti’s mill, and his latest novel is no exception… If Arditti’s novel has a message, it’s that of his epigraph: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’ And yet this scrupulously compassionate book is never depressing. A plot concerning the fate of the historic local pier provides an entertaining narrative motor, while Arditti’s wit and typically breezy style keep the pages turning effortlessly.’

Stephanie Cross, The Lady

‘There are splendidly comic scenes worthy of Alan Ayckbourn.  While the deeply moving last chapter is like the final movement of a string quartet, weaving together the various themes.  Arditti’s strength in creating an entire community, full of rich and contrasting characters has resulted in a satisfying book, full of insight, pain, compassion and humour.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.’

James Roose-Evans, Ham & High

‘At a time when ‘good’ can so often be synonymous with uninteresting and bland, Arditti has constructed a complex, witty and thoughtful portrait of an innately decent man and the messy modern world he lives in.’

Amber Pearson, Daily Mail

‘For all the sparky one-liners, the crisp satire on small-town preoccupations and the increasingly hilarious newspaper columns prefacing each chapter, this is a profound and unsettling book.  Many of the lives portrayed possess an almost unbearable post-lapsarian sadness, the characters fully aware that somethings has been lost, if not quite fully grasping what that something might be… Like a Graham Greene for our time, Arditti has written an exquisite novel which traces the challenging journey of the human heart towards the grace of acceptance.’

Lucy Beresford, Spectator

‘Arditti has a mischievous take on small town politics and the characters are brilliant.  Benign satire with a bite.’

Kate Saunders, The Times

‘Michael Arditti’s new novel is not literally full of widows and orphans, but it is pervaded by a sense of adriftness and fracture.  The punning title is journalists’ slang for the typographical inelegance of stray words and parts of words dangling over the turning of a line, and the novel is also a love letter to a vanishing world… Duncan’s depleted band of hacks, with all their eccentric waywardness, is delicately drawn.  Arditti is particularly good on difficult older women:  Duncan’s awful mother, Adele, is a wonderful study in malice, favouritism and passive aggression… It’s odd that such a melancholy book should be so enjoyable;  the wealth of subordinate characters suggests a town bursting with stories, even if Duncan may no longer be the person able or willing to tell them.’

Suzi Feay, Literary Review

‘Small towns are complicated places, where vested interests can stretch families to breaking point.  This is fertile ground for fiction, and Widows and Orphans, Michael Arditti’s tenth novel, ploughs it to good effect.  Arditti paints a detailed portrait not just of a dying industry not just the English seaside town, but also its local paper.’

Elena Seymenliyska, Sunday Telegraph

‘Enjoyable and diverting, Arditti’s prose is engaging and his material is studiously observed, particularly in the passages about the declining fortunes of Duncan’s beloved paper.  And although the prevailing tone is bittersweet, the descriptions of contemporary concerns and preoccupations that baffle Duncan are grimly comical.  Moving and astute, it’s a novel for anyone who has ever flicked through the paper and failed to recognise the country they’re reading about.’

Jennifer Lipman, Jewish Chronicle

‘Widows and Orphans is a dense novel with a large cast of interesting and diverse characters.  Francombe’s population has been the lifelong focus of Duncan Neville’s work as the local newsman, and Arditti vividly evokes this local web of relationships, personal and political.’

Peggy Woodford, Church Times

‘Arditti’s gently satirical novel is a moral tale of lost causes in a changing world, with old causes and caring communities under threat.’

Phil Baker, Sunday Times

‘A charming paean to a lost and vanished England.’

Catholic Herald

‘No one is missed by Arditti’s crystal-clear eye. Widows and Orphans is at its heart, a compelling portrait of life in 21st century Britain for the everyman… While Duncan Neville struggles to keep his newspaper afloat, Arditti has no such trouble with the novel. The pages turn themselves.’

Eleanor Doughty, Standpoint

‘In contrast with the melancholy of the seaside town, Arditti’s writing has an uplifting quality to it which surely comes from the generosity with which he portrays people.’

Clare F.Hobba, The Third Way

‘The story is carefully constructed, and Arditti’s sympathy for his characters makes this a very enjoyable read.’

Claire Looby, Irish Times

‘A masterly portrait of small-town life and 21st-century dilemmas.’

Emma Hagestadt, Independent