29/01/2008

The Blue Bedroom (and other stories) by Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher is one of my absolute favourite modern fiction writers; I'm very sorry to learn that she's now stopped writing, although as she's now in her eighties it's not surprising. Still, I have all her books on my shelves, and re-read them all periodically.

'The Blue Bedroom and other stories' is one of two collections of short stories (the other being 'Flowers in the Rain'). On the whole, I'm not a fan of short story collections - I like reading one or two in magazines, but prefer a full-length novel if I'm going to read a book. However, Rosamunde Pilcher is one of the few exceptions. Her short stories draw me in immediately, creating believable and lovable characters within a few paragraphs. Her themes are timeless, her plots well crafted, her endings beautifully written.

'The Blue Bedroom', for instance, is the story of a young teenage girl still struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother, and her father's re-marriage to someone rather younger than himself. Then her stepmother goes into early labour, and she is the only person around to help. It's a simple enough outline, and could have been clich├ęd, but somehow it isn't. I felt for both the main characters, I found a tear in my eye more than once, and I was thrilled by the resolution.

The same is true of the other stories. There's the disorganised woman determined to create a perfect evening for her husband's boss and his wife who are expected to dinner. Or the boy who has lost his best friend - an elderly neighbouring farmer, who suddenly died. Or the young couple struggling to make ends meet, and wishing they could afford to have something done about their horrible garden. They give up an enjoyable weekend in the country to entertain a rather crabby and lonely godfather.

So many situations, so many people - but they feel like little cameos of life. Oh, they're set twenty years ago or more, mostly in the countryside, before the advent of mobile phones. They're in a class of society I'm not familiar with either, who assumed that children go to boarding school at a young age, and that there's someone who helps out in the house and with the children, if only part time. It doesn't matter, though: there's no snobbery; these people are all delightful, wanting what's best for their families and friends.

You won't find twists in the tail with Rosamunde Pilcher's short stories. You won't find violence, either, or sex, or any bad language. Perhaps they would be a bit tame for some, but for me they are the ideal of what short stories should be.

Highly recommended.

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