For Love or Money? is a tale centering around the fate of the Harlech Mine Widows’ Fund, a sum of money designed, as the name would imply, to provide for the widows of miners killed in accidents.
Peculiar conditions attached to the fund permit it to be inherited by the eldest daughters of said widows – but only if they, too, are widowed at the time of inheritance. If not, it reverts to the heirs of the original two trustees – unless they are found morally deficient. The fund, providing a modest pension to many widows at first, now provides a hefty sum to one, and she’s lying in a coma.
Naturally, this situation produces a scramble on the part of the potential heirs, namely Iris Evans (daughter of the last heir), her live-in boyfriend Derek Davis (grandson of the last trustee), and Gerry Bowles, representative of the solicitors who have been overseeing the fund. Of course, since neither Iris nor Derek have any clear idea of what is going on, nor any idea that the other is involved, madcap complications ensue, as the plot wanders chaotically from Wales to London to New York to the south of France.
This is a very cheerfully British farce with the standard frequent digressions, humorous asides, and linguistic ramblings characteristic of that genre. Iris and Derek get more likeable as the book goes on, and the side characters are memorable and entertaining. The plot is full of twists and turns which keep the reader turning pages until the final satisfying resolution at the end. And descriptions, usually a high point of British farce, are certainly not neglected here – the author paints lively word pictures of characters, scenes, and cultures with humor and verve.
Unfortunately, some of the genre’s greatest strengths can also be its greatest weaknesses- the rambling tone of the book can become tedious at times, and it is sometimes easy to lose track of the multiple ongoing plotlines. Additionally, the constant discussion of “U” versus “non-U” can be both a bit overdone (coming off as more bitter than amusing), and also somewhat confusing to Americans less familiar with these terms.
This is a book that will appeal to ardent Anglophiles (such as your humble reviewer). It may not quite reach Wodehousian heights (very high heights indeed) but it is quite a satisfactory read for a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader