Wednesday, October 15, 2014

OCTOBER 2014 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

 “They will come…to paint the warmth of the sun and the colour of the wind.”

19 Bookers, welcomed in seashell script, met at the home of Joanna Linder on White Cap Lane, aka, North Beach of Porthkerris, Cornwall, United Kingdom in the extreme southwestern peninsula of England. Joanna’s home captured the minute elements scattered throughout this classic novel with details reminiscent of Penelope Keeling’s surroundings. It was from a window in his studio, Victorian artist, Lawrence Stern, Penelope’s father, painted The Shell Seekers touting its “windy sky racing with the clouds, the sea scudding with white-caps, breaking waves hissing up onto the shore, subtle pinks and greys of the sand, shallow pools left by ebbing tide and shimmering with translucent reflected sunlight.” 

Joanna chose to begin the discussion with the reading of the introduction written by the author for the 10th anniversary edition of The Shell Seekers. From this, which begins, “once upon a time, in 1984,” we learn the driving force behind the publication of this remarkable book. Rosamunde Pilcher, age 60 and the author of eleven books, was content with her accomplishments. Her children, “with touching faith in their mother, had bigger ideas,” asking her long-time publisher, “why don’t you make our mother famous, and more importantly, rich, and isn’t it about time we all hit the jackpot?” Barely able to get a word in edgewise, Tom, the publisher, responded their mother had not yet written a novel that would justify the huge advances and global promotion, which was a “big fat novel for women, a good read, and something that tapped into her life and the experiences of her generation.” Ms. Pilcher took the challenge tapping into three themes, one about the lives of the upper-class Bohemians, secondly the disastrous effect that the prospect of an inheritance can have on a perfectly normal family, and thirdly, the days before the war.” Her creative juices rose from the “mental dustbin” and she wrote “Penelope Keeling” on a blank piece of paper…and the rest is dictated by her life experiences and by her heart…thus we have a classic novel for all generations to enjoy. Her wish is for someone to buy this book as a “present for some twelve or thirteen-year old waiting to sink his or her teeth into an adult book…and start them off on the long and wonderful road of reading for pleasure.”

The novel centers on Penelope Keeling and her three distinctively dissimilar children. Set in the mid 1980’s to 1999 with flashbacks to World War II, this nostalgic novel is full of “old-world” storytelling with descriptive, dreamy, beautiful prose and flawed but genuine characters. It invites you to move to their countryside, plant a garden of daisies, snapdragons, and dahlias, and smell freshly mowed grass and baked bread. It’s a tale where good things happen to good people and is neatly tied up with a happy ending.

Nancy, the eldest child, sunk into middle age, became dowdy, and was the settler. She did the “right thing” by marrying respectably, raising two children who attend private schools, but always searched for an opportunity to enhance her wealth and social status. Noel, the middle child, had the “patience and cunning of a well-trained spy,” easily infiltrating the upper circles of London society. He was tall, dark, and handsome with a showy car and designer duds, full of big dreams, and the “sort of man who never accepted an invitation to a party in case a better one turned up.” Olivia, the youngest, was an editor of a fashion magazine, driven to succeed, independent, business oriented, and built a life of seclusion. Each had a unique relationship with their mother. Olivia, being the favorite, didn’t come with any baggage or hidden agendas. Nancy and Noel professed to care, but in reality, were both looking for the goose that laid the golden egg. Upon Penelope’s death, the heirs realized the transparency of their relationship with their mother as revealed in her last wishes. Some were happy, some not.

The majority of our group embraced the richness of the prose and appreciated the narrative style of Ms. Pilcher, but did acknowledge the difference between this novel and those published today. At times the descriptions were a few adjectives too many for our taste making it a longer novel than it could have been. We talked about how this book transcends age; how the author developed the mother/child relationship differently for each character; how vital it is for all of us to pass along to our children and grandchildren our “stories” and those of our ancestors as the more you know, the more you understand. We talked about how a loved one’s death can bring out the worst in people, where families divide because of assumed entitlements; and why children raised in the same family behave differently, whether it is biological or genetic, or is it how children see themselves that reflects in their behavior.

Fans of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge, will be thrilled as it has been made into a mini-series to air on HBO on November 2nd and 3rd starring Frances McDormand as Olive, Peter Jenkins, and Bill Murray. The author is delighted with the production so it’s most likely a good representation of the novel. You can watch a preview at
We talked a little about the Highland Park Independent School District’s decision to remove two of our Bookers’ books The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Glass Castle (among many others) from the reading choices for students. The issue, “the books in question contained a variety of themes and content that parents found objectionable including sexuality, rape, abortion, vulgar language, alcoholism, mental illness, and incest.” They have since reversed their opinion and these, and the other “banned” books are available in the school’s library. A book narrated by a dog and one’s life story…and the censorship discussion continues.
Monday, October 27th author, Jodi Picoult presents her new novel, Leaving Time at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, Wesley Hall, 3300 Mockingbird Lane.
6 pm: Author's Reception. Cost, $30 (includes signed book)
            Cash or check accepted at the door.
           7 pm: Lecture and book signing. FREE. No RSVP required. Books will be available for purchase.
About the book: For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice's old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother's whereabouts. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is #1 bestselling author Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.

               COLOR CODING SYSTEM
               WHITE:    LIGHT READ
               PINK:        MODERATELY CHALLENGING
               RED:          CHALLENGING
November 11th:         Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
                                  Home: Daryl Daniels
                                  Reviewer: Bernie Crudden
December 9th:          Christmas Party/Meeting, 9:30 A.M. 
          The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
                                  Home of Bonnie Magee, co-hosted by Rosemary Farmer
                                  Reviewer: Melanie Prebis
January 13th, 2015     The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
                                  Home of Sandy Molander
                                  Reviewer: TBD
February 10th:            All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
                                  Home: TBD
                                  Reviewer: Barbara Creach                 
March 10th:               TBD
April 14th:                  TBD
May 19th:                 Book TBD
                                  Home of Beverly Dossett
                                  Note change of Date
Summer Break:          June, July & August
September 8th:           Bookers 12th year

Happy Reading,

No comments:

Post a Comment