I promised that after I read The Shell Seekers I would review both Coming Home and Winter Solstice. Of the two books, I think I liked Winter Solstice a little bit more, but that’s probably because the plotting was more even. Coming Home, like The Shell Seekers, is a family saga, and one that kept me riveted until the very end.
Judith Dunbar is the eldest of two girls living with her mother in a seaside town while her father works abroad. For some reason, teenagers aren’t allowed to stay in these foreign countries (India, Singapore) while British parents are stationed there. I can’t understand this but that’s why Judith is back in England with her mother and baby sister. It’s time for her mother to return to England, so Judith is sent to St. Ursula, a boarding school in 1930s England. Aside from hideous bottle green, old-fashioned uniforms, it seems like a wonderful school. I was expecting a Dickensian tale but Judith fits in and seems well-liked. She makes friends with wealthy Loveday Carey-Lewis, and that’s when the tale really gets going.
Judith is semi “adopted” into Loveday’s family, especially after her guardian, Aunt Louise, unexpectedly dies in a car crash. Aunt Louise leaves all of her money to Judith, a considerable (but unstated) amount. Judith falls in love with her friend’s older brother, Edward, but we know all along that she’s destined for Jeremy, the son of the family doctor.
There are love triangles all over the place as World War II breaks out. Judith joins the Wrens, the British Navy service for women, and ends up in the south seas. Loveday, convinced the man she loves has been killed, marries for convenience, and ends up in a horrid match. Judith has many adventures, but at the end of the novel, everyone ends up with the right person to love, and all is well in the world.
I know that this is a very short review for a book totally several hundred pages. But most of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels can be summed up succinctly. They follow a very simple plot line, with intricate, detailed writing. That is in and of itself their charm; they are a cozy read, a curl up by the fireplace and relax kind of read. The writing is complex with description of beautiful homes, charming clothes, delicious meals, and fun events.
Bad things do happen in this rarefied world, but aside from one incident early in the book that occurs in a movie theater, the bad things happen “off screen.” Even the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, perhaps one of the biggest events in 20th century history, feels oddly dulled down because Judith, our heroine, is in sick bay recovering from a nasty cut on her foot when the news breaks of the bomb. Why Pilcher chose to have Judith there at such a dramatic moment is difficult for me to understand.
One thing I did learn after reading this book is that Pilcher herself served in the Wrens during World War II, and that she drew on much of her own life story for the colorful details in this and her other books that are set during the 30s and 40s. The section of the book in which Judith is in the service seems so different, so realistic, that I am guessing part of the reason this scene happens as it does is that somehow, it was drawn on Pilcher’s actual life. I’ll never know for sure, but it feels that way.
Pilcher’s books are cozy, escapist reading. I give this book 3.5 out of 5; it would have benefited from better editing, but I always say that about everyone else’s books and never my own.