Lisa (Harmonybites)'s Reviews > The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
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's review
Aug 23, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: chick-lit, contemporary, fiction, novels, popular-fiction, romance, ultimate-reading-list
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
Read from August 23 to 24, 2011

Pilcher delivers an engrossing family saga of a British family through four generations. Mostly set in the mid-1980s, it weaves in tales going back to World War II. At the center of the tale is sixty-four year old Penelope Keeling, the daughter of a renowned painter. She possesses only one finished painting of his, "The Shell Seekers" which two of her three grown children covet. The eldest, the "tiresome" Nancy Chamberlain, grew up reading the likes of Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer and dreaming of being landed gentry. Now her and her husband live beyond their means in a white elephant of a house and two unbearable children she's determined to place in expensive elite schools. Noel is the baby of the family--and not just in age. All too similar to his "feckless" father he leeches off upper-class friends going from party to party. He had to be pushed out of the nest, living with his mother into his mid-twenties. Now approaching thirty, he longs for easy money and like his sister, turns greedy eyes towards the painting when he learns it could bring in a over a quarter of a million pounds. That leaves the middle child, "cool-headed" Olivia, the editor of a fashion magazine. Independent and unsentimental without the need for money of the other two, she's also the only child who genuinely cares about her mother--or that her mother cares for.

The pages really flashed by, and I enjoyed the look at life in war time Britain and the descriptions of Cornwall. However, in the end, I didn't find the book satisfying given the lack of complexity in the characters who are pretty black or white and don't grow through their experiences. Like another reviewer, I think I would have liked more in the period when Noel and Nancy grew up and developed their characters and more reflection on Penelope's part on her own role in shaping them, all the more because the way she treats and speaks of both of them is so very cold, and she can't be bothered with her grandchildren. It was the pregnancy that produced Nancy which forced Penelope into marriage and Noel greatly resembles her despised husband. Both had to have picked up early on that Olivia was very much the favored child, which couldn't have been easy for either. Indeed both Penelope and Olivia are alike in that they seem to go out of their way to not engage deeply with anyone. It made it hard to feel the sympathy and connection with either I'm sure the author intended.
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08/23/2011 page 199

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