The Carousel (by Rosamunde Pilcher)

Once again, I turned to a favourite Rosamunde Pilcher book for some comfort reading that I could finish within 24 hours.

I last read 'The Carousel' in 2003. I loved it then, and probably just as much now. Pilcher has such a talent for characterisation which brings her stories alive in a way that few other writers achieve.

Prue is the protagonist. Rather dubious about going to stay in Scotland with her very nice boyfriend's parents, she leaps at the chance to stay instead with her slightly eccentric aunt Phoebe, who has broken her arm. On the way to Cornwall, on the train, she meets a delightful ten-year-old girl called Charlotte who is lonely, and somewhat neglected, and also has a very clear and marked opinions, giving her an unexpected maturity. OK, so there are one or two unlikely coincidences early in the book, but I didn't have a problem with them... I was caught up in the story and the people right from the start.

Although I must have read this at least three or four times in the past, I remembered only the outline of the story and had forgotten most of the detail. I was pretty certain that I had remembered the conclusion, but had quite forgotten what precipitated it, and was thrown off track by what happened immediately after the emotive climax.

The 'carousel' of the title is only a small part of the story; something Prue has always loved, and which Charlotte, likewise, finds delightful. It's not the only thing they have in common, they both enjoy art, and they both adore Phoebe. They also both find themselves very attracted to a bohemian and disorganised young man who suddenly appears in their midst...

Somehow, Rosamunde Pilcher's people are so real that I feel a sense of loss when I come to the end of one of her books. And this one isn't very long.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes women's fiction. First published in 1983, and pretty much continually in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 9th November 2010

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