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Lyrical and witty, moving and profound: the story of a good man fighting for his principles in a hostile world

‘An uncomfortable but very readable novel about the careless greeds of the way we live now’ Helen Dunmore, Guardian

‘A Graham Greene for our time’ Spectator

‘There are splendidly comic scenes worthy of Alan Ayckbourn’ Ham and High

The Francombe & Salter Mercury has served the residents of two South Coast resorts for over 150 years. Hit by both the economic decline and the advent of new technology, Duncan Neville, the latest member of his family to occupy the editor’s chair, is struggling to keep the paper afloat. Duncan’s personal life is in similar disarray as he juggles the demands of his elderly mother, disaffected son, harassed ex-wife and devoted secretary.

Meanwhile, a childhood friend turned bitter rival unveils plans to rebuild the dilapidated pier, which, while promising to revive the town’s fortunes, threaten its traditional ethos. Then Duncan meets Ellen, a recent divorcee, who has moved to Francombe with her two teenage children.

By turns lyrical, witty and poignant, Widows and Orphans casts an unflinching eye over the joys and adversities of contemporary life and paints a masterful portrait of a decent man fighting for his principles in a hostile world.


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, Guardian
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, Scotsman
'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 . . . 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
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 and High
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
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