By Rosamunde Pilcher. (Also wrote The Shell Seekers).
A dear friend loaned me this book over the holidays, saying “it is the perfect holiday book.” Well, a large portion of the book is set in Scotland where it is a windy, snowy whiteout. MT was (and still is) looking much like the Scotland descriptions. So yes, it made me feel no excitement to go to Scotland. I’d rather stay home in my pajamas in MT. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for the holidays this year (and I’m still not in the mood for winter), but reading about winter holidays in Scotland was somehow okay. This book (like The Lord of the Rings series, which I could never finish) will make you hungry because there are constant holiday feasts. There is also a lot of sherry, gin and tonic, and tea drinking. Half the 504 page book would be gone if these characters didn’t eat or drink.
“I was going to lay and light a fire as it’s such a grey day, but I haven’t got around to it yet. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee or something?”
“No, thank you, I’ve just had a Coke.”
The story starts in England with an eccentric ex-actress named Elfrida and her pound rescued dog, Horace. They are new residents of Dibton in Hampshire (which is fun to say with an over exaggerated British accent). Through a series of tragic events, she and another town resident, Oscar, decide to move away to Scotland to his old Estate House. Meanwhile, a bloke (bloke: British man) named Sam has just returned from New York City to rebuild and manage a textile mill in Scotland. He too is given information about the Estate House. Carrie has just returned from Austria and arrives in London in the midst of family drama. She whisks away her fourteen-year-old niece to Scotland since they are somehow related to Elfrida. So…as the back cover states, “Now these five very different people form an unexpected circle of friends that will forever change their lives…”
Each chapter is told by a different character. The first half of the book is endearing, as characters and their stories unfold. The writing is over detailed at times, but quaint and hilariously British/Scottish.
“I didn’t know we had a taxi-man.”
“I thought Alec Dobbs was the undertaker.”
“He is, but he does taxis as well.”
I also imagined this book was taking place during the 50s, until there was mention of cell phones…I wanted this book to be taking place in the 50s. Then there would be less excuse for some of the blatant sexism and racism. Everyone in the book is white, except for “A wonderfully black Jamaican lady” who was cleaning someone’s house. Cringe. Cringe. Cringe. Everyone else in England and Scotland is apparently white.
Women in this book are constantly putting on and taking off aprons. The main female characters are all beautiful and thin and love children (even if they do not have their own) and cook. They all cook a lot. The “career-women” characters are placed in a less than ideal light, hate children, and presumably do not cook. Of course, in modern day some women do wear aprons and enjoy cooking and children and that is just fine. But, not all “good” female characters need be one-dimensional to the point that I really did think this book was set in 1952. At one point (after several clues) I finally looked at the copyright date inside the cover: 2000.
Shit. After that, I ignored all of the signs that this book could possibly take place in 2000, and decided this book was written in the fifties either way. To be fair, this novelist was born in 1924 and she would have written this book when she was in her mid-seventies. She did grow up in the thirties…so maybe…this book is wildly progressive. I have never read such a wholesome and “polite” book. Sometimes I wanted to scream at the characters to do something daring!
I normally don’t read other peoples’ reviews until I have finished writing my own, but I did read a few this time. People out there either love or hate this book. The people who hate this book accuse Pilcher of having “no moral compass” and idealizing adultery, drinking, and “sex outside of marriage.” Well, I’ll be damned, Ms. Pilcher. You are apparently progressive.
Whew. So, despite the very old-school world (that often distracted me from the main story), I did not dislike this book. I did not love it either. There are sweet parts and boring parts. The book occasionally repeats itself, for example, you read the same story about the textile mill at least three times. I just skimmed over the repeat parts. Elfrida is probably the most winning character, although some of her quirks get exhausting by the end of the book. This book is “cozy” for sure. There is no great suspense or plot or fabulous ending (although you should not read the last page if you plan on reading the whole book).
Yes. Thanks to my friend, this was “the perfect holiday book.” I don’t think I will read it again (no offense, Janet). But I appreciated that it slowed me down from usual life chaos and made me drink a cup of tea. (And wine. Many cups of wine).
“Beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet. The basics are still there. Beauty, food and friendship, reservoirs of love and understanding. Later, possibly not yet, you are going to need others who will encourage you to make new beginnings. Welcome them. They will help you move on, to cherish happy memories and confront the painful ones with more than bitterness and anger.”