“Rosamunde Pilcher Redux”


I rarely reread fiction, and when I do it is usually classics such as Jane Austen or Henry James. But recently I saw a reference to Rosamunde Pilcher and her Cornwall settings in a blog. Since I want to visit Cornwall, I follow several Cornwall blogs and thoroughly enjoy my correspondence with their authors. I decided to reread “The Shell Seekers,” a novel I last read in 1987 when it was published.

I hadn’t remembered much of the plot, read when I had just turned 40. It turns out to not matter at all. In the intervening years I had turned 73, and it was as if I was discovering the novel for the first time. Centering on a mother in her 60’s and her three adult children, the novel uses the mother’s reflections to explore her life and her children. Clearly I had paid no attention to the mother as I read it the first time, and had only focused on the adult sibling interactions, so reminiscent of my own.

I find it increasingly difficult to find contemporary fiction engaging. Ennui, broken marriages, gender confusion and fast paced urban life no longer interest me much. I similarly have no patience with dystopian writing, nor with authors trying to wow me with their “new” and “cutting edge” techniques. I assure you that cuts the selections down very rapidly.

In my reading experience, depictions of elders written by young adults often fail to capture the genuine complexity of old age . The nuances, bittersweet realities, mild regrets and loss of important companions which fill my life are perfect topics for fiction, but not for the young writer. Pilcher, who wrote “The Shell Seekers” in her 60’s brings a depth of experience both of life and of writing to the novel. I have felt known and described countless times in the book. I am grateful for the return to the novel. I look forward to finding other fiction I may have overlooked in the past. Recommendations are welcome.


26 thoughts on ““Rosamunde Pilcher Redux”

  1. It is fascinating going back to books you read when younger…Rosamund Lehman’s ‘The Ballad and the Source’, Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘The House in Paris’ we’re not the same books at all. Life experience and age makes one a more receptive reader to nuances that would have meant nothing to our younger self.


  2. Thank you for a great reminder that rereading fiction can be even better or sweeter the second time around. We can gain an entirely new perspective. This is a wonderful post, Elizabeth.


    1. Depending on how long ago you read it, I would be interested in a reread. Especially since you have two daughters and one son, as does the protagonist.


  3. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it second time around, Elizabeth. I totally agree with you that as we age we look for different types of books and also view old favourites through different lenses. I’ve found myself seeking out books featuring older women, sometimes grandmothers sometimes not. Also books covering lifetimes rather than focusing on a small chapter of life. I do read contemporary work and of course, books covering other experiences, but those I’ve described are new subjects of interest and of course, understandable as I get older. I must have several books I can recommend but my memory right now is a complete blank (there’s aging for you!). I’ll get back to you though, with some ideas.


  4. The Shell Seekers is one of my favourite books and it is interesting that I am living very close to the locations this book describes. I read it many years ago in my thirties and loved it then and I reread it shortly before I moved to Cornwall. I was surprised to discover that it was so local to me. I think I have read all her books and enjoyed them all. I also like Maeve Binchy books. Nowadays I tend to read crime thrillers with a small dose of more female orientated literature. There are some good contemporary Australian writers such as Jane Harper.


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