Starburst (by Robin Pilcher)

Although Rosamunde Pilcher, one of my favourite modern authors, has stopped writing, I was delighted to discover that her son Robin Pilcher also writes excellent novels. While they are not as gentle as those of his mother, he has clearly inherited her gift for characterisation, and I hope he will continue writing for many years.

'Starburst' is the fourth of his novels, one I have been eagerly awaiting. It has been on my wishlist for some time, and I was delighted to receive it for a recent birthday.

I have to say, it's a bit hard going at the beginning, as a large number of characters are introduced, and I had no way of knowing which ones were going to be significant. There was Tess, an organiser in the Edinburgh Fringe, who is newly married and very happy... until an old lover comes into her life and threatens to reveal their past to her boss unless she will meet him for dinner. Then there some men involved in designing the fireworks for the end of Edinburgh festival, planning a programme that will be bigger and better than any they have done before.

Next we meet Rene, a comedienne from Yorkshire, whose buddies are determined to give her a surprise... and raise money to send her to the Edinburgh Fringe. Unfortunately her husband Gary, currently unemployed, is not impressed. And Rene herself is terrified. Then straight after meeting Rene, we move to Paris, where Angelique, a gifted young French violinist, is beginning to become disillusioned with her rather controlling trainer and manager, Andre Dessuin.

So it continues for a few chapters more, giving a snapshot in the lives of various people, from several walks of society - even including a young down-and-out whose main skill is breaking into cars - with their only connection being either a home in Edinburgh, or the intention of going there to take part in one of the festivals.

Each one was well-written and engaging, but I don't do well with a large cast of characters, and found myself forgetting, from day to day, who I had encountered.. and wondering when the real story would begin.

I should not have worried. Robin Pilcher weaves all his strands together brilliantly, as these characters meet or interact in some way. They were memorable enough that, now I've finally finished the book, I remember their stories pretty well. They all seem to be fairly three-dimensional, and by the time I was about half-way through the book it was very difficult to put down. There's excitement, danger, suspense, and romance... all low-key, without anything graphic, but all the more readable as a result.

Much of the ending was predictable, and some of it was very moving, bringing a tear or two to my eyes as I read. This is certainly a book I shall be re-reading in a few years, and I hope it won't be long before Robin Pilcher brings out another! Highly recommended.

Review copyright suesbookreviews.blogspot.com, 10th May 2008 

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