* Prices may differ from that shown
Roasamund Pilcher is by no means an author that I would usually choose, however, just before Christmas i was complaining to a friend that I wasn't feeling the usual Christmas spirit. As a remedy she strongly reccomended this book, and I am truly glad that she did.
The story is one of love, loss, friendship and sharing, all themes that one needs around Christmas time. The protagonist is a rather flamboyant retired actress Elfrida who goes on a heartfelt journey with her friend Oscar to Scotland, where they welcome other people into their home and create a true family Christmas, despite the hardships of the characters involved.
Despite it's length, Winter Soltice is an easy read which you can pick up at any point and immediately find your self attached to the characters and their journey, to the inevitably happy ending. As the story is set at Christmas time, in a snowy Scottish village, it is the perfect read for enlightening that Christmas glow in your heart, around the festive season.
The characters and their struggles are dealt with sympathetically and yet realistically by the author, with different perspectives used throughout to give the best possible insight into their individual feelings.
The book starts with Elfrida a 62 year retired actress who moves out of London to the countryside where she quickly makes friends with the locals, especially Oscar, a terrible tragedy leads us to a closed up house in Scotland which is where the story really begins.....and the Christmas magic sets in.
I have just finished reading this book and although this is the first Rosamunde Pilcher book that i have read i will certainly be looking out for her others, i must admit that at first i was a bit dubious because of the sheer size of the book, but i needn't of worried i was captivated from the first few pages.
This is what i would call one of my 'easy reads' as it isn't challenging but very enjoyable, Rosamunde manages to mix heartbreak with love, sadness with happiness and laughter with love. Her descriptions of the characters make them come to life and her settings are a reminder that there really are some beautiful places in this country. I enjoyed the way that she tells the story from various points of view and from people of all ages.
The only downside for me is that in some places the writing is old and not very realistic for the age of the characters but this doesn't prevent it from being a heartwarming story that i will most definately read again.
Elfrida is sixty-two, an active and slightly eccentric retired actress. She lives with her dog in a small village, with a few treasured possessions and a lot of memories. She has a few close friends and some much-loved relatives, and enjoys her independence.
Not far into the book, Elfrida receives a terrible shock which turns her world upside-down. Shortly afterwards she drives to Scotland with an old friend for some peace; however, other people gradually descend on them or are invited to stay for a few days. A blizzard traps this mixture of people, and they decide to celebrate Christmas together despite Elfrida's wish to keep it very low-key.
I admit it doesn't sound a very exciting plot. Indeed, in the first couple of chapters I was expecting a gentle village novel the first time I read this, enlivened mainly by the author's skill in bringing her characters to life. I expected a little family tension, perhaps a blossoming romance, maybe a little travel. I'm a big fan of Rosamunde Pilcher, so I was sure I would enjoy it, and thought I would be able to read it over a couple of weeks.
But 'Winter Solstice' is a moving and entirely believable book, which had me gripped almost from the start. When I first read it, nearly five years ago now, it was just after Christmas. Despite my best intentions I more-or-less abandoned my kitchen and ignored my family, and read the book in just two days. I was totally caught up in the lives of the characters, and the many subplots which the author weaves together skilfully.
Whereas in some of Pilcher's earlier novels I felt that some of the conversations were a little stilted at times, I had no such reservations with this book. By about half-way through, there are people from the age of about fourteen to over seventy interacting daily. Each of them has a distinct voice, and relates realistically to each of the others. I could almost imagine the people in the book moving around me as I read; I felt as if I knew them personally.
Rosamunde Pilcher always seems to handle the characters of the elderly with great skill: she herself is over seventy, so perhaps it's not surprising that she has such an affinity with older folk. I also knew, from her other books, that she is gifted in creating realistic children. In this novel I discovered that she manages equally well the frustrations and idealism that can torment a teenager.
So there's travel, there are various tensions, and there's more than a hint of romance. There's also heartbreak and pain, stress and worry. Inevitably with this genre of novel most of the problems get resolved in a satisfactory way by the end of the book, but that's part of its charm as far as I'm concerned. I like fiction to be realistic without too much gritty realism. I like it when characters confront difficulties, and then find ways of resolving them. I suppose that means that the book is a little predictable at times, but I didn't find it entirely so. Nor is it over-sentimental, or trite.
I re-read 'Winter Solstice' about ten months ago. This time I remembered clearly the events of the early chapters which had so shocked me the first time I read the book. That meant I was able to enter more closely into Elfrida's character, knowing what was to come. Since I couldn't remember most of the rest of the book I enjoyed it every bit as much the second time around.
It's reputed to be Rosamunde Pilcher's last novel: I hope she will change her mind and write some more, but if not this is an excellent one for her grand finale. I count it as my favourite of all her books, and would give it six stars if I could. It combines characters and plot in exactly the right quantities for my tastes, with beautiful settings described with just the right amount of detail - enough to feel at home, not too much to make me bored.
To be sure, not everyone will enjoy this book. Fans of fast action or horror would obviously not be tempted. Those who like a lot of plot, but aren't bothered about character development would probably find it slow-going. Nor would it appeal to those who like to read about the squalid, dirty side of life, or to those who only like challenging or deeply philosophical novels. For this is an unashamed light read. It's not hard on the brain cells, and it won't keep you awake at night. On the other hand you could safely give a copy to your grandmother. It's a 'feel-good' novel to be enjoyed when you have some time to unwind and relax, and want the world to slow down a bit. At nearly 600 pages it's not a particularly quick read, but it's well worth it.
The paperback edition is available from Amazon UK at £6.39, or from Play.com for £5.99.
Retired actress Elfrida Phipps leaves the hurly-burly of London to enjoy a peaceful life in a small Hampshire village. She settles in well, and becomes good friends with a local couple, Oscar and Gloria Blundell, and their late-in-life young daughter, Francesca.Elfrida looks forward to a happy, tranquil life, content to live out her remaining years in this safe, secure place. And then tragedy befalls Oscar, when his wife and child are killed in a terrible car crash. Griefstricken, and about to be evicted from his home by his stepsons to whom the house was willed by their mother, Oscar decides to flee to Sutherland, where he has part-ownership of a house. Half expecting a refusal, Oscar asks Elfrida to go with him, as a companion. She agrees, out of friendship and pity. They both feel they want to lock themselves away from the world, and settle into the Scottish village of Creagan.Christmas is approaching, but Oscar and Elfrida have decided that this year Christmas is cancelled. Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. A young relative of Elfrida’s with nowhere to spend Christmas arrives, with her young niece in tow, and as Christmas gets nearer, the huge house fills with people. Despite themselves, Oscar and Elfrida find themselves slowly drawn into the festivities. A sense of Christmas spirit descends upon the house, and Oscar begins to come to terms with his grief. The friendship and trust he has with Elfrida, the comfort he derives from her presence, begins to turn into something deeper. But does Elfrida feel the same? This is a warm, feel-good novel, which evokes memories of how Christmas used to be. The characters are hugely sympathetic, and by the end of the novel, you feel that they are friends of yours. Given the storyline - late blossoming love borne out of tragedy - "Winter Solstice" could have been mawkish and over-sentimental. It is actually neither of these. The characters are drawn so skilfu
lly and are shown with all their humanity and failings, that the book never descends into sickly sweetness. Yes, it is a romantic novel, but it is not a soppy one. I am a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed “Winter Solstice.” If you are looking for a book to curl up with in front of the fire this winter, this is it.
Renowned for her unpretentious, comfortable and often compellingly engrossing family sagas, Rosamunde Pilcher tells this story mainly through the eyes of 60-something Elfrida Phipps, a former actress, and Oscar Blundell, a retired church organist. At the start of the novel Elfrida has just left London, acquired a dog and settled in a quiet village in Hampshire, where she befriends Oscar, his much younger wife Gloria and their daughter Francesca. It's hard to say much more about the story without spoiling it for anyone who hasn't read it but intends to. To sum up, tragedy leads Elfrida and Oscar to put the past behind them and head north for a rambling house in the far north of Scotland, miles away from anywhere. A combination of circumstances results in various friends of all walks of life and relatives of different ages and very different temperaments coming together, and it all culminates in an unforgettable Christmas for everybody. If it sounds like a predictable, cosy story, I wouldn't argue with that. Maybe it's undemanding, very nice and too happy-ever-after, but unless you're a hard-boiled cynic who doesn't like 'nice' stories, I'd warmly recommend this. The author is a dab hand at getting inside her characters and turning them into the readers' friends, and she is very good at evoking village and country life; her portrait of rural Scotland is most evocative. I've discussed her books with fans and several of them say that her novels are such an enjoyable read that often they don't want the book to end. This weighs in at close on 600 pages (considerably less than the mammoth 'Coming Home', which was recently adapted for TV), so it may sometimes seem that way! Seriously, though, a very heartwarming tale which justifies the hype.
Elfrida Phipps loves her new life in the pretty Hampshire village. She has a tiny cottage, her faithful dog Horace and the friendship of the neighbouring Blundells - particularly Oscar - to ensure that her days include companionship as well as independence. But an unforeseen tragedy upsets Elfrida's tranquillity: Oscar's wife and daughter are killed in a terrible car crash and he finds himself homeless when his stepchildren claim their dead mother's inheritance. Oscar and Elfrida take refuge in a rambling house in Scotland which becomes a magnet for various waifs and strays who converge upon it, including an unhappy teenage girl. Elfrida and Oscar, in the evening of their lives, the winter solstice finally brings love and solace.