Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rosamunde Pilcher

I have never been to Scotland, but I feel as though I have. The Highlands are one of Europe’s last untamed wildernesses; of mountains, moorland, coasts and lochs. And since Scottish blood run through my veins, I relate to Scotland and its people.
I am again reading Winter Solstice, by Rosamunde Pilcher. I’ve been hooked on this talented Scottish writer since my sister, Eva, recommended her first bestseller, The Shell Seekers. Her heartwarming stories are set in England and Scotland and are woven with history, glowing descriptions, and strings of unforgettable characters. Unlike many books of today, with terse sentences and snappy new words, a Pilcher book is old-fashioned reading; something to be savored while curled up with a cup of tea on a cold winter afternoon, or lolling in the front-porch swing during the lazy days of summer.

If you are looking for books filled with violence, sex and infidelity, you should look elsewhere (although there is usually a love affair or two in her books). Like her previous works, Winter Solstice is simply a story of ordinary people, doing ordinary things. But, oh, how she strings her words together! She creates people and places so real that I feel I have known them for years. When reading her books, I want to be there, doing that.

Although I am not a fan of frigid weather, Pilcher’s vivid descriptions of grey skies, howling winds and sparkling frost of a Scottish winter take me there. Dressed in heavy corduroy trousers, a thick woolen sweater, and a hooded coat, I walk with the Scots through the snow-packed Highlands, my breath making white puffs in the frozen air.
I am with them as they take off their Wellingtons, boil a kettle on the Aga for tea, and sit at the scrubbed pine kitchen table, discussing the day’s events. I watch from the shadows as they light a fire, “to take a bit of chill out of the air,” and I stand in front of that crackling fire, a tumbler of Scotch in my hand, watching them draw the curtains against the night. (And I don’t even like Scotch!)

I ride along with them as they fill their cars with petro, run errands in the village, and chat with the colorful townspeople. And I shiver at the doorway as they let their dogs out (always a dog or two in her stories) to take their “wees.” She paints a picture so well that I’m as relieved as the dogs!

Rosamunde Pilcher was born in Lelant, Cornwall on September 22, 1924. She began writing when she was seven years old and sold her first short story when she was 18. After attending secretarial college, she served for three years with the Women's Navel Service during WW II. She married wealthy textile entrepreneur, Graham Pilcher, in 1946, and they moved to Dundee, Scotland, where she still lives.

Pilcher began her writing career in 1949 as an author of Mills and Boon romances under the name of Jane Fraser. She once said writing saved her marriage; while bringing up her four children, she wrote hundreds of short stories and more than a dozen novels, mostly at her kitchen table. (I'm betting it was scrubbed pine!) Her last was The Keeper’s House, in 1963.

Pilcher did not achieve her international break-through until she was 63 years old. The Shell Seekers sold five million books and topped the New York Times bestseller list in 1990, kicking Tom Wolfe off the lead. In the United States and the UK, The Shell Seekers became the most sold paperback of the decade. Winter Solstice, Coming Home and September were also bestsellers, and she is now internationally recognized as one of the most-loved and prolific storytellers of our time.

I must admit Pilcher's books are not for everyone. Some readers might find her descriptions way too long and drawn out. But that is why I enjoy her books so much. When reading her stories, I forget I am reading a story; I am there, every step of the way. And that is a real feat, one that only a remarkable storyteller like Pilcher can pull off.

Although I will never be in a league with Pilcher, we do have something in common. For years I hesitated to tell people I was a writer. And when I did, they often responded with, “I’ve thought about writing a book, but I just don’t have the time.” (As I told Suzanne, you would think we were talking about baking cookies!) So I was more than a little taken aback when, in an interview with Publishers Weekly, Pilcher encountered the same thing.
"All my life I've had people coming up and saying, 'Sat under the hair dryer and read one of your little stories, dear. So clever of you. Wish I had the time to do it myself,'" she recalled. "I just say, 'Yeah, fine, pity you don't.' I've been beavering away." She sat back and smiled, "And now I'm hoping that nobody will ever, ever say that again."

Well, I think it is safe to say nobody will ever, ever say that again to Rosamunde Pilcher!


gill woods said...

Good Morning..I'n lying in bed reading The Shell Seekers in Perthshire Scotland..and I came accross your site...So just to say to you from Bonnie..cold and windy.. Scotland..Hello... your site is good...Gill...

Brenda said...

It's so nice to make your acquaintance, Gill, and thanks so much for your kind comment!

Alice said...

Hello, i never write on these websites but i feel moved to today. My grandfather died yesterday, he was the husband of my grandmother Rosamunde Pilcher. I wanted to read if there was anything about him on the web, he was an amazing and loving man who lived to the grand age of 92. As you can imagine there is so much about my grandmother on the web and so i read your article. I love what you have written about her and the way she writes - she is exactly the same in real life and when she writes us grandchildren letters, which she does weekly, they are written in exactly the same style as her books - i am constantly being told about her walks with the doggies or how she bumped into old mrs so and so down at the shop or a lunch party she has had and how ghastly old so and so is....!! What we grandchildren get (and 2 great grandchildren now!) are pictures aswell to illustrate her letters! She is a wonderful grandmother and together with my grandfather they have been the most incredible and loving influence in my life. I'm glad you enjoy her writing. Best wishes, Alice Pilcher. ps sorry about this essay - i'm just feeling so grateful for my grandparents today.

Brenda said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your grandfather, Alice. From your words, I know Graham Pilcher was a wonderful man. My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to you and your family, and please tell your grandmother I'm thinking of her during this sad and difficult time.

Loving and caring grandparents contribute so much to their grandchildren's lives. I'm lucky to have had two grandmothers and one grandfather when I was growing up, and seldom a day goes by that I don't think of one of them.

Again...thanks so much for commenting, Alice. I so enjoyed learning what loving grandparents they've been and that your grandmother writes letters to her grandchildren in exactly the same way she writes stories. It's comforting, somehow.

Take care, and God bless...

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

This was wonderful to read Brenda. You expressed the charm of Rosamunde's writing perfectly. She did make having a "finger or two of scotch" seem like a nice way to warm up after a walk on a blustery day. Her descriptions of people and events are so filled with delightful detail.

I am always in awe of writers -- I can't imagine how someone can feel as if the craft is easy!

Grandma's Place said...

HI Brenda, I just ran into this piece, and it made me want to read more of Rosamond Pilcher. I have only read The Shell Seekers. Your piece is so revealing and interesting that I shall head to the library tomorrow and search for a book. I do not blog anymore- may start again. BlogSpot will not let me blog without uploading Chrome. It caused me so much trouble with Microsoft products, I gave up. Really screwed up my utube site. Grrr. Anyway, do still follow you and enjoy your posts on fb. Keep up the good work! and enjoy that grandchild!!! Hugggs, judy

Brenda said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments, Judy. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, and I'm glad you plan to read more of Rosamunde's books. You won't be disappointed!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley