The End of Summer (by Rosamunde Pilcher)

Rosamunde Pilcher has been, for many years, one of my favourite authors. I own all her books, and since she has - sadly - retired from writing, I re-read them periodically. Attempting, this month, to read (and write about) one book every day, I opted for one of her shorter novels.

I last read 'The End of Summer' in 2003. It wasn't one of my favourite books, although I liked the characters. I remembered the beginning - a girl, living in a shack in California with her rather erratic writer father, deciding to spend a month in Scotland with her grandmother. I also remembered the rather melodramatic climax to the book.

I had forgotten the protagonist's name (Jane), and pretty much everything else in the novel. I'd forgotten Rosamunde Pilcher's delightful descriptions of places, which manage to evoke images and emotions without ever being too lengthy. I had not forgotten her great gift with characterisation, but had not really remembered Jane, whom I quickly warmed to. And I'd totally forgotten David Stewart, the quiet, helpful and immensely likeable lawyer who arrives in California to see if he can get in touch with Jane.

There isn't the gentle pace of Pilcher's longer novels, nor the immense skill in weaving subplots together. This is one of her earlier books, published in 1971, with only 150 or so pages. It feels dated in some ways - partly because of the lack of mobile phones and computers, and partly because the casual way everyone seems to smoke cigarettes without it occurring to anyone that it might be a bad idea.

Some of the conversations seem slightly stilted, and Jane's grandmother seems a rather shadowy character, a predecessor, I suppose, of the delightful elderly women who feature in her later, longer books.

But still, I found myself enjoying the book, anticipating the dramatic (and not particularly pleasant) climax with slight tension, but pleased to find that there is a satisfactory, if brief conclusion where many ends are neatly tied.

Recommended. It's a testament to Rosamunde Pilcher's popularity and enduring talent that this book, despite being so short and relatively unknown, is still in print both sides of the Atlantic, nearly forty years after it was first published.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 3rd November 2010

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