04/05/2019

The Rosamunde Pilcher Collection (by Rosamunde Pilcher)

In my slow progression through the late Rosamunde Pilcher’s wonderful books, I reached the volume called ‘The Rosamunde Pilcher Collection’. I bought this at a second-hand shop back in 1996 when I was trying to acquire as many of her books as possible; it contains three of her shorter works. If I were buying them now, I would prefer to have the three as separate books, but they weren’t in print at the time and I was delighted with my find.

The three books included in this omnibus are, ‘The Day of the Storm’, ‘Another View’, and ‘Sleeping Tiger’. They were originally published between 1967 and 1975, so inevitably they are all somewhat dated. I found the regular and extensive use of cigarettes rather disturbing, for instance. But they were undoubtedly commoner in that era, although at least one of the characters is well aware that they were dangerous to the health, even then.

When I last read this collection, in 2008, I reviewed each book separately. They can be found here:  The Day of the StormAnother View and Sleeping Tiger. They have links to the individual books, which are now easier to find than the collection.

‘The Day of the Storm’ is about a young woman called Rebecca Bayliss, who lives on her own and works in a bookshop. She was brought up by a bohemian mother, travelling around the world and living with various men; and she longs for some roots. She has no idea who her father was until she flies to visit her mother in Ibiza, after an urgent message from her mother’s current protector, Otto.

Most of the story, then, is Rebecca’s discovery that she has some relatives. She finds herself caught up in family feuds, isn’t really sure who to trust. I had entirely forgotten the book at first, but by the time I was half-way through I had some vague memories of it, and the eventual outcome. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all, and I liked the book very much.

‘Another View’ is about another young woman, called Emma. She has been living abroad, but has decided to return to live with her artist father in Cornwall. She, like Rebecca in the earlier book, had a somewhat unusual upbringing, mostly devoid of any structure, and without any known relatives, She had a step-brother for a short time, and was very fond of him, but they have lost touch.

The story follows Emma’s struggle to create some order in her father’s life. She has never felt as if she mattered to him at all; she, too, has to learn to let go and discover who is really important to her.

The final book, ‘Sleeping Tiger’, is about a girl who, as far as she knows, has no relatives at all. Selina was brought up by her rather rigid grandmother, and is engaged to the upright and rather controlling Rodney. We meet her when she is buying a wedding dress, in preparation for a very quiet wedding. She and Rodney do not seem particularly well-matched, but their grandmother wanted them to get married, and it all seems very suitable…

Then, prompted by a photo on the back of a book, Selina wonders if her father is in fact alive and living on a Spanish island, rather than (as she has always been told) killed in one of the wars. Selina is inclined to spontaneity, and since Rodney won’t go with her to investigate, she takes off on her own… and is doing well until disaster strikes at the Spanish airport after her arrival. I had remembered more about this book than either of the others, although not the final outcome.

Although this ‘Collection’ has nearly 600 pages, I finished it in just four days. As with all her books, Rosamunde Pilcher created memorable, likeable characters with personalities I could relate to, and flaws that made them all the more believable. Once I had started each of the three books, it became difficult to put them down as I was so drawn into the story.

Pilcher relies somewhat on coincidences, and also on the main characters turning out to be people of integrity on the whole. Her ‘bad’ guys are limited to people such as off-stage thieves or dubious car mechanics, but they’re only important in creating problems for the main characters. The situations are somewhat artificial, and the conversations a bit stilted. There’s a whole upper-class acceptance of boarding schools and housekeepers and extensive drinking which don’t fit into my world view at all…

And yet, I love Pilcher’s writing. She was a born storyteller, excelling in characterisation, and all her books have satisfactory endings, if a tad abrupt at times.

I would recommend any of these novels highly, as well as the whole collection, if you enjoy light women’s fiction that’s relationship-based, set in a mostly technology-free world where communications happen by telegrams or letters, or awkward phone calls. There are parts which are not remotely politically correct, and an underlying assumption that men go out to work while women cook and clean.

But it doesn’t matter. These books were written as contemporary novels in the 1960s and while society has changed in many ways in the past fifty years, people are still the same.

Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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