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on 9 September 2008
I first read this book way back in 1987 when it first came out and have just now re-read it - 21 years later and it still is an amazing read. Rosamunde Pilcher really makes you care about the characters and what happens to them and I really didn't want it to finish!

The book hops back and forward through time with chapters detailed by different characters' names but this only adds to the book as you discover things about the characters that happened previously and everything is explained in the fullness of time. The only characters I found somewhat unconvincing were Nancy and her family - they didn't seem to have any redeeming features at all and I found that a bit hard to believe.

The description in the book is very good and you feel that you are there feeling the wind or smelling the roses - Rosamunde Pilcher is presumably a keen gardner!

I can definitely recommend this book and will probably read it again in another 20 years time!
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on 15 April 2012
It's difficult to write about this author without using the words 'warm family saga' - that's her speciality, and that's what this is.
The story hops about through time, from the thirties to the eighties, as artist's daughter Penelope Keeling re-lives the past and remembers the love of her life, while dealing with present problems concerning her children and her father's artistic legacy.
Ms Pilcher is an old-fashioned sort of writer, and I don't mean that as a criticism: these days I'm very happy to read a good story well told, with no pretensions or gimmicks. There's no sex either, of course, but it's not a sugary romance, there's plenty of realism and real emotion. The wartime scenes set in Cornwall are particularly good: this is the authentic voice of someone who's lived through it all herself, and who values some rather unfashionable virtues like stiff upper lip bravery, and keeping calm and carrying on.
But have you ever re-read a book after a long period, and discovered that it's not quite as good as you remembered it? I loved this when it was first published in 1988, and I've always put it right up there with her other great success, Coming Home. But for me it hasn't stood the test of time nearly as well.
Mostly because I found Penelope to be rather annoying the second time around. She's lived a bohemian and sometimes penniless life, but quite a privileged one - she's inherited property and never has to work for a living - and although she says she despises snobbery she's still a snob, just of a different kind. She tells us how fond she is of working class evacuee Doris, for instance, but it's Doris who's expected to make the tea.
And she's very judgemental about her children, while taking little responsibility for their faults. By the end I found myself sympathising with her daughter Nancy, despised and dismissed by her mother because she didn't turn out to be 'special'. We're constantly being told how fat and unattractive she looks, compared to Penelope's new young friend Antonia. Poor Nancy: if my mother had given family heirlooms away to virtual strangers, I'd have been quite upset, too!
I think I'd have preferred it if, like Coming Home, the whole thing had been set during the war years, dispensing with the more modern parts altogether, so that some of the out-dated assumptions would have sat more naturally.
But Ms Pilcher does this sort of thing so well: if you're looking for a 'warm family saga', then this is a very good one.
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on 7 March 2009
I absolutely LOVED this book. It's so beautifully written with such vivid and true to life detail and imagery that I don't understand why this novel is not more widely read. The author is clearly immensely talented, and employs an astoundingly clever style in her writing and depiction of family life. The book reads so easily that the 600 pages fly by and before you know it you've reached the end and long for more. Pilcher's characterization is superb and her attention to detail makes the novel seem really authentic and real, making you feel as though you are watching the story being played out in your head rather than reading words on pages (a rare thing that all truly brilliant novels should have). The story is also excellent and surprisingly entertaining with it's simple premise. I especially appreciated the saga aspect of the novel, going back into Penelope's early life during the war, as it seems so nostalgic. Another positive aspect is the fact that the book is consistent throughout in terms of focusing on the emotional relationships between all the characters in the book, rather than simply creating a dramatic story. The ending was also unexpected and heart-warmingly bittersweet, I struggle to find fault with this beautiful book.
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on 22 August 2014
The Shell Seekers was the first novel I had read by Rosamunde Pilcher and I will certainly be reading more. My only regret is that I wish I had discovered her writing 20 years earlier as I'm sure that's this book would have had a more profound impact for me then. It's the sort of book that I could have imagined my late-teen self devouring in a whole sitting,. As it is I managed to complete it in 3-4 days while on holiday in St Ives - perfect setting. The Shell Seekers is warm, comforting and cosy. Some of the characters are a little flat and predictable however this did not detract from the story. Another small gripe is that while the narrative is beautifully written, some of the dialogue is quite dated: lots of "frightful" "ghastly" and "dreadful"; in addition some of of the behaviours of the principal characters, especially the children are stereotypically 80's, lots of focus on material comfort and status, while those who lived through the war are portrayed as more thoughtful and respectful. I wonder if this was intentional. In any case I did feel myself getting drawn into the storyline wholeheartedly and revelled in the wonderful descriptions of place, home life and memory. Small point for any Virginia Woolf fans - I saw some links with the setting of Carn House and Talland House where Virginia spent here childhood summers in St Ives. Worth a read and already lining up Coming Home as my next RP read.
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on 15 February 2015
I'm not surprised that this is a bestseller. The story always keeps you wanting more, the characters are interesting even if not always likeable, but Penelope is an absolute star, the perfect mother & friend. I'm sorry to have finished this book. Unputdownable. Recommended.
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on 26 March 2000
Rosamunde Pilcher creates a world which we feel fortunate to have been able to visit. The depth of her characters and the emotions her plot evokes make this book a must read for sentimental people. This was my first Rosamunde Pilcher book. She is an author you want to come back to.
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on 6 May 2014
I first read this many years ago and remember enjoying it very much. Seeing the Kindle edition was such a bargain, I decided to re- read it.

I was irresistibly reminded of Jane Austen's intention of creating a heroine who "No-one but myself would very much like". I love Emma but I really don't like Penelope very much at all. There is a point where, on hearing of one of her incredibly bizarre actions, her son bows his head and clutches his hair - and with complete justification to my mind. I find Penelope and her favourite daughter, Olivia, totally unsympathetic - small wonder they're at odds with the rest of the family.

The novel itself is well written and plotted, it paints a fabulous picture of life through the first few decades of the twentieth century and of a bohemian family, albeit it a very well heeled one. It feels like a real flaw to make the main character so unsympathetic and to behave in such a deliberately perverse fashion.

I imagine Mrs Pilcher liked Penelope but I most definitely don't, all my sympathy lies with her unfortunate son and elder daughter!
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on 7 August 2015
It was good, and nothing good is truly lost. It stays part of a person, becomes part of their character. So part of you goes everywhere with me. And part of me is yours, forever”
― Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers

Rosamunde Pilcher’s The shell seeker’s is on the BBC 100 best books list which is why it came to my attention. I had never heard of it before so thought I would give it a try. Set between London, Gloucestershire and Cornwall, the book follows the life of Penelope Keeling and her family. The only daughter of artist Lawrence Stern and his much younger wife Sophie, she leads a gypsy and happy life style traveling between London and Cornwall as well as trips to France. Penelope marries Ambrose because she becomes pregnant but falls in love with someone else. Her and Ambrose have three children who all grow up into very different people of which she has mixed experiences with! The title of the book is taken from a painting in the book by Lawrence Stern that ends up influencing all their lives in many ways.

“She remembered him smiling, and realized that time, that great old healer, had finally accomplished its work, and now, across the years, the face of love no longer stirred up agonies of grief and bitterness. Rather, one was left feeling simply grateful. For how unimaginably empty the past would be without him to remember.”
― Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers

I have to admit this book is really predictable, which made it a little disappointing as the excitement was completely taken away from it. I found the characters Nancy and Noel extremely annoying (which was the point) but I can’t help thinking it would of been better if they had got their comeuppance.

Happiness is making the most of what you have, and riches is making the most of what you’ve got.”
― Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers

I would describe the book as being a nice read, probably not one of the best 100 books but still, nice! I would give it three out of five stars.
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on 3 July 2014
I think that Rosamunde Pilcher had written some excellent novels. "Coming Home" is one of my absolute favourites, followed by "Winter Solstice" and "September". THis novel is very readable, but some of the characters are rather stereotype-ie Noel and Nancy, and the romance between Danue and Antonia comes straight out of Mills and Boon.
And one thing which really puzzles me-when the run-up to D-Day is being covered, helicopters are described as being used?? That's very much news to me.
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on 21 May 2008
This is a really lovely book about human relationships and how they can change over the course of a lifetime, and how they can be affected by major historical events. Through flashbacks and through her 3 adult children, you learn about Penelope Keeling from when she was a teenager to a 64 year old woman, and ultimately you become emotionally attached to her. The characters are fantastically strong and are either likeable or disagreeable depending on the person and their situation. Places are described beautifully and you can picture Penelope's garden so clearly in your mind. Although this book was written in the 80s, it doesn't feel too dated, other than some odd references to clothes and the language some of the younger characters use (not many teenagers today would call their boyfriends 'Darling'), so I am convinced that readers today who are new to Rosamunde Pilcher would find it very easy to lose themselves in this book.
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