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The Shell Seekers

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  95,145 ratings  ·  3,226 reviews
Artist's daughter Penelope Keeling can look back on a full and varied life: a Bohemian childhood in London and Cornwall, an unhappy wartime marriage, and the one man she truly loved. She has brought up three children - and learned to accept them as they are. Yet she is far too energetic and independent to settle sweetly into pensioned-off old-age. And when she discovers th ...more
Hardcover, 530 pages
Published April 6th 2004 by Gramercy Books (first published 1987)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  95,145 ratings  ·  3,226 reviews

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Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's something about this book that always makes me resolve to move to Cornwall, bake lots of bread and have an enormous flower garden, and spend the rest of my days painting huge swathes of light on the beaches. That aside, this is one book that I regularly read every six months and love each time. I don't know how to describe it. Just go read it.
"The most ordinary of prospects caused her to stop and stare. The last of the leaves dropped from the trees, and the bare branches made lace against pale skies. Sun after rain turned cobbled streets blue as fish scales, dazzling to the eye. Autumn winds, whipping the bay to a scud of white-caps, brought with them, not cold, but a surging sense of vitality…"

Penelope Keeling knows how to live life to the fullest and I absolutely adore her! She grasps those things that matter most in life – the com
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
“She believed, of course ... because without something to believe in, life would be intolerable.”
The Shell Seekers ~~ Rosamunde Pilcher


I definitely was not excited to read THE SHELL SEEKERS. My mother had chosen it for her book club; telling us, it was one of her favorite books of all time. I foolishly viewed this as a woman's book, no, an old woman's book.

How wrong I was. I absolutely loved THE SHELL SEEKERS. My only regret is that I hadn't visited the worlds created by Rosamunde Pilcher soone
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I seldom find myself blubbering over a book anymore. I used to do it when I was younger, but my insides seem to have toughened as I have aged. My sentimental side is harder to access, and even when a book evokes strong feelings I do not really cry. Well, Pilcher put the lie to that today. I cried like I was 15 again, felt foolish doing it, and felt clean and empty afterward.

OK, maybe I was just needing a good cry. It happens. But, there was something very touching in the way Pilcher presented th
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

A beautifully written character driven novel about family and life, love and loss, greed and hope, a book that has the charm and eloquence of books from a bygone era, just a good old fashioned family saga, a story with real characters and places that are interesting and vivid.

I had never read a book by this author before and as a couple of Goodread friends have really enjoyed her novels and the fact I saw it on the BBC list of Top 100 books I just had to try one and I was in not dis
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Rosamund Pilcher is consistently marketed via book jackets covered with flowers. I'm not sure why. On the surface, Pilcher's stories are nostalgic and evocative of magical other places where good things always happen to good people; but her novels and characters are consistently rich, complicated, and subtle. I've not read another author who could draw the infuriating imperfections and dysfunctions of family so accurately, or so compassionately. It's easy to admire, then almost despise, and then ...more
From the blurb:

"Set in London and Cornwall from World War II to present(1983), The Shell Seekers tells the story of the Keeling family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. The family centers around Penelope, and it is her love, courage, and sense of values that determine the course of all their lives. Deftly shifting back and forth in time, each chapter centers on one of the principal players in the family's history. The unifying thread is an o
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
From its supermarket cover (have you seen it? It felt embarrassing to have such a romantically embossed book in my hands) to its one-dimensional characters, the entire book reminded me of a heavyweight beach read.

So....what should get a "nice summer read" review instead trips me up for weeks, unable to write anything about this book and a dozen others because I'm forced to question my reasoning. Why do I feel so bad about being critical of this book? Mostly, I think it's because many friends an
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of all time, but I'd be hard-pressed to explain why. The criticisms of this book are true enough--semi-cliched characters and all--but I just love them. I love Penelope and this book makes me want to garden and cook soup and let everyone be themselves even if they're stuffy and stodgy or not at all in fashion. I love that her personal life is real, as in far from perfect--her societally correct husband was miserable and her true love wasn't allowed. I love that A ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An older woman looks back on her life, thinks about her family, and tries to decide what to do with a valuable painting that she's inherited from her father, an artist.

I read this back in the day and honestly don't remember any of the details, but I do remember enjoying this read.
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mycuppa
You really can't judge a book by its cover.

People have recommended Rosamunde Pilcher's books to me for years, and I refused to read them because all the covers looked like they had been marinated in mothballs. But after spying "The Shell Seekers" on the BBC's "The Big Read: Top 100 Books," I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. Annoyingly, several people had put it on reserve at the library before me, so by the time I received it, I wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as I had been when I had
Abeer Hoque
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
I thought this book would be better for all its NYT Book Review (and other) praise, but it wasn't. Ostensibly a sprawling family saga centring around matriarch Penelope, it's basically the same 2 or 3 characters with different names playing out over three generations.

If you're a "good" character, then you're independent, stubborn, glossy haired, tall, beautiful. You love France, holiday in Spain, dream of Cornwall, and believe in children out of wedlock and monied bohemian lifestyles (but not t
Joey Woolfardis
Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

I'm not a huge fan of genreless fiction, not in the least when it has a strong romance-vibe, but I found The Shell Seekers to be a pleasant read. It was not at all taxing and can be described as escapist literature, and requires not an awful lot of mental agility to get through, but that was part of its charm.

The best thing about the book was how splendidly well it was written. I wasn't hugely captiv
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not review books at this stage. In fact, this book lead me to Goodreads for the first time ever. I remember Googling this book from the car on the way home from summer holidays, and ultimately I discovered this wonderful site that way. This is the first read from this author, I remember enjoying it immensely and then borrowed a bunch from my mum. After signing up here, of course!
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I read this years ago when I lived in Seattle. I still remember it. A plot that one remembers for 20 years speaks a lot for a novel.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I have to add agreement. She wrote with such compassion without a hint of the maudlin. Her books were like rich soothing chocolate - perfect for blooming a centered core of caring/ peaceful contemplation. And they never enabled trouble or dysfunction, but seemed to disarm it at the source.

The flowers on the bookcovers I understand. Graphics of her gardens. Her characters often centered themselves in gardening and her plant depth (knowledge of form and placements) was phenomenal.
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this book in one sitting in the nineties, and what a sitting it was! My husband had business meetings in Basingstoke and I had joined him. It was May, nice weather, so I chose a bench in the park and started reading. Of course I walked around the centre and had lunch but for the rest of the time I just sat on that bench reading and had finished the book by the end of that day. I have read other books by her, but I've never enjoyed them as much. Now Ms. Pilcher has died on the ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance
Looking for interesting romantic readings in the last few days I wandered around a bit here and there but eventually decided to go for something safe and secure in this genre, namely Rosamunde Pilcher. Of course in the case of the romance of her books I don't think it has much to do with the mass-produced romances that dominate nowadays, it's something different. The element of love is dominant but not in the form of the great passion that drives the protagonists and pushes them into irrational ...more
Emma Rose Ribbons
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cosy
What an extraordinary book. That was a terrific reread. One of my favourites for sure.

A wonderful, perfect reread. My heart is full.


This is one of those few times when I feel like Goodreads should have a regular star rating, and then a separate award for those Special Books. Those that take over your mind and soul. Those that somehow strike that perfect balance between cosy and haunting. The Shell Seekers is one such book.
Rosamunde Pilcher is an author I've always meant to read, she's of
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was at loose ends, not knowing what I felt like reading. I had a CRAZY busy week coming up and I knew I didn't want to waste what little time I had with a mediocre book. So I decided to scroll through my GR friend Sarah’s shelves, and see what she had rated 5 stars. My eye fell upon ‘The Shell Seekers’ and I remembered that our mutual friend Claude also had given it 5 stars. (Then a lightbulb went off over my head. They, along with another mutual friend Gita, had all recommended this book to m ...more
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-reads
“She had loved them all, her children. Loved each one the best, but for different reasons. Love, she had found, had a strange way of multiplying.”

Rosamunde Pilcher creates a full and mostly satisfying world here—a family saga heaped with descriptions of lovely gardens, splendid meals, the exotic beauty of Ibiza, and the tranquil coast of Cornwall. In her introduction, she writes that she intended The Shell Seekers to be “A big fat novel for women. ... Something, above all, that tapped into my li
Debbie Zapata
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019sundaze
Feb 28 ~~ Beautiful, just beautiful. Proper review tomorrow.

Mar 2 ~~ I used to see Pilcher's books everywhere: at the library, in used book sales, at garage sales. But I was never interested in them, simply because the covers always made me think they would not be my cup of tea. Considering the wide range of books I have always read, that seems like a funny thing to say, but there it is: I never stopped to look beyond the covers.

Then a few years ago I saw a review by a GR friend of mine who had
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this because it is one of my moms favorite authors/books and I wanted to be able to discuss it with her while she is still around. It was very enjoyable and amusing book about a family and the issues one has to deal with as a parent ages. The struggle between letting the parent be independent and still be safe is always a tough one. The thing I took away from this book was the importance of letting a person be who they are no matter their age and limitations.
Penelope (the matriarch of th
This lovely novel is so atmospheric you feel you're there; you can almost smell the flowers, feel the tang of the sea and see light glint off the water. My first reading of this book, so many years ago, instilled in me such an interest and a love for Cornwall that it remains today, while the well-written characters seem more to be real people than characters from a book. An old favorite that is still a wonderful pleasure to revisit.

4.75 stars instead of 5 simply because there are a few points in
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this a million years ago. I still remember it being so good.
Rosamunde Pilcher received a challenge from her publisher, Tom Dunne. He wanted her to write: "A big fat novel for women. A good read. Something to get the teeth into. And something, above all, that taps into your life and the experiences of your generation."

She had never written such a book. All of her novels, previously, had taken no more than three months each to write. Ideas were floating about in her head. She came up with three themes: the lives of the upper-class Bohemians who had always
Lynne Wald
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women everywhere
Rosmund Pilcher is someone I discovered on holiday in Cyprus. I had finished reading all the books I had taken, and in the hotel there was a BIG book by here called Winter Solstice. Because I had nothing else to do I started to read it.
the story is about a woman of 60, ex actress who is involved with a man, of a certain age, who has just lost his wealthy wife and only daughter. The woman takes him under her wings, and he is kicked out of his house by the step sons. the plot involves a house in
Julie Christine
This book represents my absolute literary vice: novels set in Europe immediately pre-during-post WWI and WWII. The "Gosford Park"-like settings, characters, intrigues never cease to captivate me. This series of intertwined stories by Pilcher- The Shell Seekers in particular- are the pinnacle of the genre for me. I could while away many a winter's afternoon lost in its pages...
Megan Baxter
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another book that I really enjoyed because of the characters - the main character, Penelope, in particular. The story is another of those sprawling family stories (in both time and space and characters), which in general, I enjoy very much, as long as they are skillfully told and executed.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgas
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored Penelope and loved her company while reading this book. Terrific characters, description of the settings, cottage houses, gardens and Cornwall. As a gardener myself, I loved every aspect of way she wrote about working in her garden and the joy it gave her. She is obviously a gardener herself.

2019: upon rereading this book, it is also obvious to me that Rosamunde Pilcher knew very well what was and wasn't important in life. She knows about good friends, generosity, about giving and rece
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Rosamunde Scott was born on 22 September 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, UK, daughter of Helen and Charles Scott, a British commander. Just before her birth her father was posted in Burma, her mother remained in England. She attended St. Clare's Polwithen and Howell's School Llandaff before going on to Miss Kerr-Sanders' Secretarial College. She began writing when she was seven and published he ...more

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