Winter Solstice. Rosamunde Pilcher. NY: Thomas Dunne Books. 2000.
I blew it this month. Instead of expanding my reading repertoire, I went back to an old favorite, Rosamunde Pilcher’s WINTER SOLSTICE.
I love winter holiday novels, where a bunch of people who don’t feel like they belong anywhere find kinship with each other. I am still trying to write my perfect version of it. I’m a sucker for the multitude of winter holiday romance novellas that come out every year (although many of them wind up frustrating me, especially when the woman’s only reason for existing is to marry and have kids).
My mother is an enormous fan of Rosamunde Pilcher’s work, and has all her books. She re-reads them regularly. THE SHELL SEEKERS is the novel that Ms. Pilcher is probably best-known for writing.
But I love WINTER SOLSTICE.
I forgot how long it takes to get to the meat of the title. Whereas if I submitted a novel structured like this, I would be told to start it about half-way through where this novel starts, Pilcher starts slowly, bringing Elfrida out of London with Horace, her new rescue dog, to a small English village and following her as she rebuilds her life there, after the love of her life dies. She goes through months of settling in, and then visits her cousin in Cornwall for a month. She returns to find that the wife and daughter of the couple with whom she made the closest friends (the husband of which she cares about a little too much) have died in a car crash. The wife left the house to the sons from her first marriage, who put it on the market and tell Oscar, the husband, to leave.
Oscar owns half a house up in Scotland, along with his cousin, and convinces Elfrida (and Horace) to join him there, while he works through his grief and tries to figure out his life. They plan to spend a quiet winter and ignore the holidays.
From there, the holiday circle grows to include Elfrida’s cousin’s daughter Carrie, recovering from a broken heart, and Carrie’s niece, Lucy. Lucy is fourteen. Her mother is off to America with a new boyfriend, her father’s new wife doesn’t want her around, and her grandmother is too busy to bother with her.
Throw in Sam, recovering from the dissolution of his marriage by going back to his wool-mill roots to revive a local mill, who meets Oscar’s cousin and gets the key to the house from him, and you have a band of kind people who need each other.
That is one of the joys of this novel. No matter what life throws at them, how life tries to break them, at the core, all of these characters are basically kind. In this day and age, when too often the cruelty is the point, reading a book where the kind characters triumph by living their kindness is uplifting and reassuring.
Modern critics would say the stakes are too low in this book, but when it comes to the heart, only the person whose heart it is can really make that determination.
I had forgotten how enjoyable and warm the book is. If you want a warming read for a cold winter’s night, I suggest reading, or re-reading WINTER SOLSTICE.
This is the last Reader Expansion Challenge. I hope you’ve had fun over the past few months. I certainly have.
Next year will be a mix of author interviews, pieces about favorite bookshops, and responses to books I read that I’m excited about. They’re not reviews, but personal responses.
Have a lovely holiday season! I will be posting over the next two Tuesdays, even though it’s a holiday, so I hope you will join me.