The End of Summer (by Rosamunde Pilcher)

In re-reading my Rosamunde Pilcher novels again over the past few years, I reached the one that is probably my least favourite: ‘The End of Summer’. It’s quite a short book - only just over 150 pages - which I last read in 2010.

Jane is the main character of this novel, and it’s told in the first person. We first meet her when she’s sitting on a beach in California, and gets chatting to a surfer. We learn from her conversation and her thoughts that she lives in a small house, essentially little more than a shack, with her father. She is not particularly well-organised, and has no real ambitions other than to keep house with him, and enjoy the sunshine.

Her father is away on business, but Jane’s dog Rusty is a faithful companion, and she doesn’t expect any visitors. So she’s rather surprised when a man arrives, who turns out to be her grandmother’s lawyer David Stewart. Jane’s grandmother lives in Scotland so she fears the worst, but is reassured. It turns out that she has written several letters to Jane’s father, urging Jane to go on a visit, and they have not received a reply.

Jane would love to visit her grandmother, who lives in a large house where she has fond memories of holidays. But she is pretty sure her father would be unable to look after himself. She knows, too, that he and her grandmother had quite a heated argument before he brought Jane to live in the United States. So she turns down the offer, but David says a flight is booked, and he’s not leaving until the following day, so if she changes her mind she can let him know.

In the morning, Jane’s father arrives home with someone else, so Jane decides that she will, after all, go with David to visit Scotland. Most of the book then takes place there, as she re-acquaints herself with old friends, and places she loves, and also her cousin Sinclair. He was her best friend when they were growing up, and she has romantic inclinations towards him….

I’ve read this book often enough that I remembered the broad outline of the plot. I recalled that Jane was going to have an unexpected visitor, and that she would fly back to Scotland. I also remembered the rather shocking climax to the book, in the penultimate chapter. But I had forgotten a lot of the detail: of Jane’s relationship with her grandmother, of the delightful people she talks to, mostly staff or other local workers. I had forgotten, too, all the things she learns about her family, in particular Sinclair’s father.

Rosamunde Pilcher’s greatest gift, in my view, was the way she created such three-dimensional characters. I could relate to Jane so strongly that I felt sorry to see the story end. There is an entirely satisfactory conclusion, albeit a tad predictable, and in the aftermath of tragedy. David Stewart is very believable, too, as is Sinclair and even Jane’s father, though we only meet him briefly.

Even my least favourite of Pilcher’s books is still a very good story, and I shall no doubt re-read this yet again in another decade or so.

Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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