The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

This book was first published in 1987 so I’m really late in getting around to reading it. I know it was amazingly popular when it first came out but I was surprised when I looked at the BBC Top 100 book list that this one is number 50 on it. It’s for that reason that I thought I would read it and the fact that Rosamunde Pilcher has lived in nearby Dundee since her marriage to a Scottish soldier in 1946 and brought up her family there. So I suppose she can be regarded as a Scottish writer.

The Shell Seekers is set all over the place though with Edinburgh just being mentioned a few times. The main action takes place in the English Cotswalds and Cornwall and the story is a family saga which encompasses three generations of the Stern/Keeling family.

Laurence Stern is an artist who marries Sophie, the daughter of a friend. The huge age gap between the couple doesn’t seem to be a problem and their only child, Penelope enjoys a Bohemian lifestyle with her parents, living in London, Cornwall and France until the outbreak of World War II. After hearing about what was going on in Germany from some refugees Penelope decides to join the WRENs the next day but it isn’t exactly the sort of war work which she had been hoping to do as she’s a glorified servant, waiting at tables and she regrets joining up. It’s just the beginning of her troubles.

In later years with three grown up children Penelope discovers that her father’s paintings have become fashionable again and are fetching eye-watering sums of money at auctions. Unfortunately two of Penelope’s children have turned out to be a lot like their snobby, avaricious father and they are determined to persuade her to sell The Shell Seekers which is a large painting which was given to Penelope by her father and she is one of the three children portrayed in it.

I enjoyed the book, it’s an old fashioned family saga I suppose and as most of us have experience of growing up within a family and the same sorts of situations come up all the time, just because of the multiple personalities involved, it all has a sort of recognisable feel about it but it has the advantage that it doesn’t put your blood pressure up, as it would in real life!

Admittedly we don’t all have expensive paintings hanging on our walls but you know what I mean, there aren’t all that many families around who don’t have someone in it who feels hard done by, and of course they are usually the very ones who are the most selfish and self-centred. It all makes for a very cosy experience, now I’m looking forward to starting Rosamunde Pilcher’s September soon. I’m not sure if it is regarded as a sequel but it certainly has one of the characters in it.

I had intended to review this book around about St Andrew’s Day (Nov 30) – but I decided to read September for that date as that book is actually set in Scotland.

6 thoughts on “The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

  1. I’ve never read this but it’s come up in a lot of favorite books lists. I used to read a lot of Maeve Binchy and I’ve often heard comparisons between the two. Sounds very interesting. Thanks for reminding me about it!

    • Karen,

      I’m quite ashamed that it has taken me so long to get around to reading Rosamunde Pilcher. I haven’t read Maeve Binchy but from what I’ve heard I think her writing will be quite similar. I’ll get around to reading her sometime I hope!

  2. This title has been on my “To Read” list for quite some time. My favorite Pilcher title is Winter Solstice. Oh, how I love that book! Have you read it, Katrina? This book spoke to my heart, my soul, my life in so many ways. The first time I “read” it, I listened to an unabridged audiobook narrated by Lynn Redgrave. A superlative reading, to be sure!!! Now I own two copies of the book, a hardcover and a mass-market paperback, and want very much to read it sometime during the Christmas season.

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    • Judith,

      I haven’t read Winter Solstice yet but I nearly bought it a couple of weeks ago and then decided to wait and get a hardback copy. The other Pilcher books which I have are all hardbacks and as they are all quite thick it is easier to read them in hardback. I can’t break the spine of a book which makes it quite difficult and awkward when reading thick paperbacks. I’m really looking forward to reading it because I’ve heard good things of it from various quarters.
      I hope that everything is going well with you!

  3. I read this years ago at the urging of a good friend and recall really enjoying it as well. After reading your post I think I’d like to reread it as I’ve forgotten so many of the details. I also have September on my shelves–not sure either if the stories are connected. She seems a very reliably good writer to turn to when you’re in the mood for a nice, cozy family saga!

    • Danielle,

      I’m glad that I got around to reading Pilcher at last. I think I thought she might be similar to Catherine Cookson, who I have an aversion too because of the never ending queues of people waiting for her books when I worked in a library. But I don’t think she is at all like Cookson.

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