Winter Solstice (Rosamund Pilcher)

December 21, 2015 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★★

Winter Solstice (Rosamund Pilcher)Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Published by St. Martin's Press on 2000
Genres: Christmas, Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: my personal collection
Goodreads
five-stars

In Winter Solstice Rosamunde Pilcher brings her readers into the lives of five very different people....

Elfrida Phipps, once of London's stage, moved to the English village of Dibton in hopes of making a new life for herself. Gradually she settled into the comfortable familiarity of village life -- shopkeepers knowing her tastes, neighbors calling her by name -- still she finds herself lonely.

Oscar Blundell gave up his life as a musician in order to marry Gloria. They have a beautiful daughter, Francesca, and it is only because of their little girl that Oscar views his sacrificed career as worthwhile.

Carrie returns from Australia at the end of an ill-fated affair with a married man to find her mother and aunt sharing a home and squabbling endlessly. With Christmas approaching, Carrie agrees to look after her aunt's awkward and quiet teenage daughter, Lucy, so that her mother might enjoy a romantic fling in America.

Sam Howard is trying to pull his life back together after his wife has left him for another. He is without home and without roots, all he has is his job. Business takes him to northern Scotland, where he falls in love with the lush, craggy landscape and set his sights on a house.

It is the strange rippling effects of a tragedy that will bring these five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan.

It is in this house, on the shortest day of the year, that the lives of five people will come together and be forever changed. Rosamunde Pilcher's long-awaited return to the page will warm the hearts of readers both old and new. Winter Solstice is a novel of love, loyalty and rebirth.

Review

Winter Solstice is one of my favorites among Pilcher’s later novels, and one I often re-read at this time of year. I love it for its warmth and sensitivity, but most of all for the spirit of hope, generosity, and renewal that permeates the entire novel.

The book follows several characters who at first seem to have little in common: Elfrida, an older single woman befriended by Oscar and Gloria Blundell; Sam, an executive with an international wool company; Carrie, who has just returned to London having left her job at a European ski resort; and Lucy, Carrie’s 14-year-old niece. Carrie is distantly related to Elfrida, but the women haven’t been in touch in years.

Elfrida is the center — in a way, the anchor — of the novel. A retired actress, Elfrida is both practical and exuberant; she embraces life with cheerful, even determined optimism. Yet her own experiences, including the loss of the man she loved, have given her an accepting and compassionate spirit and an understanding of others’ pain that helps draw the others together.

Every character in the novel seems to have a life beyond the page. I feel, after several readings, as if I know them well enough to recognize them across the street — as if I could visit Creagan and be greeted as a friend not seen in several years. Oscar’s gentle nature and innate kindness endear him to me. Carrie is level-headed and more patient with her self-centered sister and mother than I would be; she’s an ideal aunt. Lucy is one of the nicest young teens you’ll come across, despite the usual assortment of adolescent insecurities and the handicap of being raised by a selfish mother and grandmother. And Sam is a good man as well as a capable and assured businessman.

As the blurb above suggests, it’s tragedy that brings them all together, tragedy and the loss of love. And yet it is love in the broader sense that heals each of them, that opens for them a brighter future. One of the things I treasure most about Winter Solstice is that Pilcher’s writing doesn’t descend into sappy or overly-facile resolutions; instead, the book ends on an hopeful note, with several new beginnings  that, while deeply satisfying, don’t guarantee storybook “happy ever afters.” Pilcher’s underlying belief in healing and hope reminds me of the writings of Elizabeth Goudge, which may be one reason I enjoy her books so much.

I highly recommend Winter Solstice, particularly if you’re looking for novel with both holiday spirit and emotional depth. The title has several meanings; the winter solstice is both the season in which half or more of the book takes place, and a reminder and celebration of the rebirth of light, life, and joy. It is a lovely book, one I will treasure for many years to come.

five-stars

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