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Friday, January 6, 2012

The Shell Seekers

I've read Rosamund Pilcher's books for years. Recently I completed what I think is her best work The Shell Seekers. Pilcher is a secular British author who writes women's fiction and she is a master at capturing provential British life and building a story that involves romance, although romance is not the most prominent element.

Her use of words does not strike you like a lightening bolt with incredible prose or exceptional wording. However, Pilcher excels at taking what would be mundane and making it interesting. Her characters are very believable and you quickly learn to like or dislike them.

The Shell Seekers centers around an elderly mother, Penelope Stern, who lives independently and has just returned from the hospital after having a mild heart attack. We get to know her three adult children who are all wrapped up in their own existences. Now they are faced with the realization that their mother is failing and must decide what to do about it.

Pilcher paints realistic family dynamics, warts and all as family members clash. Two of her children are shallow, materialist social climbers which builds tension between them and their free-spirited, non-materialistic mother. As the story unfolds we come to know Penelope and her past. She's the daughter of famous impressionist artist, Lawrence Stern and has led an interesting, if not difficult life that has taken her through several romantic heartaches and financial hardships during World War II. After his death, Lawrence Stern, her father has left her little materially except for a valuable painting, the Shell Seekers, depicting figures on a beach and two unfinished panels. These works come into play as the story progresses.

I don't want to ruin the story for by revealing all of the plot but if you appreciate a good women's fiction story, will definitely want to add this one to your "must read" list. If there is anything I would change it would be Pilcher's indifference to spirituality. At best she seems to only skirt spiritual matters and most of the time she treats religion as more of an institution that, on occasion, may serve a purpose. Pilcher also has no qualm about having characters in extramarital affairs although these are treated with taste, it is still something I personally hate and wish to avoid in a story. Apparently Pilcher's convictions are shared by many others. I guess I remain a woman of old-fashioned convictions.

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