December Book Club - Winter Solstice

NenyaNenya Shipmate
December's book of the month is Rosamunde Pilcher's long but easy-reading "Winter Solstice."

Characters from various walks of life gather, for different reasons, to spend Christmas in a "quite large, solid, Victorian" house in Scotland.

This is one of my annual December reads and I look forward to our discussion. Happy reading!

Comments

  • I'm in - just started reading it last night.
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I just downloaded it and will start reading as soon as I finish the book I'm on right now. Looks like an interesting read!
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I have never read a Rosamunde Pilcher and though I have quite a lot of December reading lined up, it sounds intriguing so if I can get hold of a copy I will try to join in.
  • I've started!
  • I've just finished. I've got a nasty cold, and I must say it was the ideal book to snuggle up in bed with when you aren't feeling at your best.
  • Found a copy in my local library. Will give it a go.
  • I couldn't quite remember why I ordered this book to come in to my library. So glad to have figured it out. :)
  • Have just finished reading this and Sarasa, I agree with your comment. I enjoyed it very much and found it to be an encouraging read.
  • I've not finished it yet, but it's a nice warm-blanket read - the literary equivalent of comfort food! Just right for the season, I think.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I hope it is ok to post the discussion starters a couple of days early, while I have a window of opportunity.

    Did anyone reading the book not particularly enjoy it, and why?

    The book has various points of view. Which ones did you enjoy most, and least? Were there any characters we don't hear from that you wish we did?

    Did you find the characters and situations believable?

    Your favourite characters, and least favourite?

    If you know Scotland, did the descriptions evoke it well?

    What might happen in a sequel?

    Any other comments or things you'd like to discuss?

    This book is one of my annual pre-Christmas reads. Do you have some? If so, what are they?

    Have at it. :smile:

  • I loved reading this book, thank you for the suggestion. The characters, countryside, interior decoration and houses were so well described they were easily to imagine. And I revelled in the cosy atmosphere.

    Books with different character’s stories really appeal to me and this was no exception. My only criticism is that Lucy’s diary entries didn’t give much insight into the plot, mainly repeating events that we knew about.

    I enjoyed this collection of characters coming together and forming a family. So much change happened to each of them in a very short time, so the situations are condensed but believable.
    It annoyed me that Elfrida and Oscar were portrayed, and even described themselves as old, while they’re in their early 60s, as least Elfrida is. Younger than me!

    I particularly liked Carrie for her independence, resilience and kindness. She reminds me of my elder daughter. I didn’t have a least favourite character.

    Unlike films, I don’t repeat Christmas books. I loved the feeling of this though with its gentle themes of growth, change and reconciliation.
  • Thank you for suggesting this book. I enjoyed it, but I had reservations that my husband (who also tried reading it, but gave up) brought into focus.
    I thought knocking off Oscar wife and child so he could get it together with Elfrida was a bit cavalier of Pilcher
    The party when there was talk of patronising people where the whole party seemed to be patronising Arthur and his wife was irritating too


    I liked the way the point of view changed, it meant the story rattled along in a very satisfactory manner. I would have liked more about the sad major stuck in the infirmary. He seemed one of the better drawn characters

    I thought the characters on the whole were quite well drawn, if from a very narrow social range, but the situation was the stuff of fairy tales. But its a Christmas read and that's what I expect.

    I liked Gloria best I think. I thought we could have done without Elfrida's trip to Cornwall, though I did like the description of the house. In fact all the dwellings were well described, and I wouldn't mind living in any of them.

    I don't know Scotland well, but I could imagine it from the one holiday I did have up in that area.

    I think a sequel could focus on Lucy and her disappointment when Roly (?) comes back from Nepal with a serious girlfriend.

    A few years ago the Ship did A Christmas Carol as its Christmas read. I said at the time I would re-read it every year. I haven't but I think I ought to. 'Are there not workhouses' has stuck with me.

    I don't think I'd read it again, but it was an ideal read a week or two ago when I was feeling ill and just wanted to curl up with a nice book. I might try out some of her others. I know I've read at least one, but I can't remember which.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    Sarasa wrote: »
    I might try out some of her others. I know I've read at least one, but I can't remember which.

    The Shell Seekers is the best known one of hers, and a lovely book. September is a sort of sequel and I didn't enjoy it as much but think I should revisit it.

    I think there's more to your spoiler than just cavalier convenience. The tragedy is an ongoing part of the book, particularly affecting Oscar of course but with ramifications into his relationship with Lucy and a vehicle for some sensitive insights from Peter Kennedy.

    It hadn't occurred to me that the dinner party was patronising.
  • Having had my father die this past September, I found I approached the book from Oscar's point of view. I've not had much hope at all and so it was satisfying to see good things happen even through the despair. With regard to Lucy's diary entries, I found that each time I saw one coming up I relaxed a bit knowing that there would be some relief from anything too difficult. I really enjoyed the book and found it mirrored a lot of my feelings of this season.
  • I’m only about a quarter of the way through and noticing the change in vocabulary between south and Scotland. I can’t read any earlier comments just in case I spoil my read though.
  • As I suggested earlier, it's really the book equivalent of comfort food, and none the worse for that.

    Two thoughts for the moment: first, I do think that a more proactive editor would have culled the whole Cornwall episode; and second I do wish that the author had understood that Sentences should always have a main verb!
  • Thinking a little more about my comment above on the Cornwall episode, I realise that I was writing it with my Editor's Hat on.

    With my Writer's Hat on, I can entirely see why it's there; it provides the stable basis which the traffic accident so completely disrupts, and which is meant to come to us as a shocking surprise.

    That it in fact doesn't do so is down to the chump who wrote the blurb at the back of the book, which acts as a massive spoiler. If I were the author I'd be calling for his guts to be served up on a plate.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    edited December 2018
    Andras wrote: »
    Thinking a little more about my comment above on the Cornwall episode, I realise that I was writing it with my Editor's Hat on.

    With my Writer's Hat on, I can entirely see why it's there; it provides the stable basis which the traffic accident so completely disrupts, and which is meant to come to us as a shocking surprise.

    That it in fact doesn't do so is down to the chump who wrote the blurb at the back of the book, which acts as a massive spoiler. If I were the author I'd be calling for his guts to be served up on a plate.

    That's a perceptive comment. I did think you were being a bit hard on the Cornwall episode! My inside cover blurb just mentions "an unforeseen tragedy" which doesn't give a great deal away, but maybe other editions are different.

    Regarding one of my own questions, I confess that on rereading now I skip Sam's sections. He provides a useful role as home-facilitator for Oscar and Elfrida and love interest for Carrie but I'm not that interested in him otherwise. I find Lucy's contributions some of the most enjoyable although I skim over the Horace episode as I find it upsetting. Poor little dog.

    Did anyone ever see the TV version of the book some years ago? If not, avoid it like the plague. It was utterly dreadful.
  • The blurb as I have it (Kindle!) includes this line: But an unforeseen tragedy upsets Elfrida's tranquillity: Oscar's wife and daughter are killed in a terrible car crash and he finds himself homeless when his stepchildren claim their dead mother's inheritance. I didn't really want to know all that!

    I haven't seen the TV version, I'm pleased to say.

    The Scottish atmosphere is well-caught, I think. I spent a very happy Christmas Eve / Christmas morning in the parish kirk in Glamis a few years ago (organ, fiddle and accordion provided the music, and we all ended up eating mince pies and drinking copious quantities of mulled wine) so although the book is set much further north, the mood seems very familiar to me.

    But I do wonder why Oscar plays the Ode to Joy at a Christmas service.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    Andras wrote: »
    The blurb as I have it (Kindle!) includes this line: But an unforeseen tragedy upsets Elfrida's tranquillity: Oscar's wife and daughter are killed in a terrible car crash and he finds himself homeless when his stepchildren claim their dead mother's inheritance. I didn't really want to know all that!

    Egad, that's terrible. The blurb writer should have been shot.
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    Last night I woke about 12:30 because my feet were hot. Typically if I wake up like that, I usually read to get back to sleep. Normally that takes five minutes. This time, at 2:30, I had finished the book!
    It was a very enjoyable read, even with the sad parts, which did bring tears to my eyes.

    The book has various points of view. Which ones did you enjoy most, and least? Were there any characters we don't hear from that you wish we did?

    I think I liked Lucy's pov best. Even though her home life has been less than ideal, I really liked her sweetness, maturity and thoughtfulness.

    All the different narrators were interesting. There were none that I really didn't want to read.

    Did you find the characters and situations believable?

    Mostly. As a (former) organist, I don't think Oscar's actions were recognizable to me. But then again, it might be because I'm female. Not sure about that, though.

    Your favourite characters, and least favourite?

    Lucy's mom and grandma were definitely not favorites! There wasn't a lot of detail, but enough (and written well enough!) that I felt they needed to be dressed down!

    Any other comments or things you'd like to discuss?

    Like Andras, I wondered why Oscar was playing Ode to Joy on Christmas Eve. I know it's been a while since he practiced the organ, but gosh! Why not a simple expansion on Mendelssohn, or Adeste Fideles?

    There has not been a typical Christmas read for me, and my books at this time of the year don't necessarily relate to Christmas, but I really enjoyed having roughly the same dates in real life and in the book. It was very different from my reality here with all the descriptions of the cold and snow, but that was a nice aspect to think about.

  • I didn't have any objection to Oscar finding a new purpose in life after the death of his wife and child it's just that they died in November and by Christmas Day he had a new partner and a new life. I think I'd have found his and Elfrida's story arc more moving if he'd been in a downward spiral of grief for about five years, but for that to happen the whole first part of the story would have had to be re-written.
    I guess I'm just annoyed that Pilcher had created to quite believable characters in Gloria and Francesca jus to bump them off to move the story on.
  • Sarasa wrote: »
    (snipped)

    I guess I'm just annoyed that Pilcher had created to quite believable characters in Gloria and Francesca jus to bump them off to move the story on.

    Unexpected deaths are the very devil to fit into a plot: either they are somehow signalled beforehand (Gloria's love of a little drinkie or two or three, perhaps) or they stick out like a sore thumb - a sort of diabolus ex machina, if you like. But yes, the speed of the new romance, bedding and marriage is a little reminscent of Hamlet.

    The fact that such events happen in real life is neither here nor there. Real life, as Barbara Cartland once observed, is sadly lacking in useful plots.
  • I enjoyed reading this, but Elfrida’s character struck me as being a little bit too laid back and accommodating of everyone around her. However, a bit of “hmmm, maybe but not just yet” might have slowed the plot down too much.
  • Having not been able to get hold of a secondhand or library copy, I bought this on Kindle, very late to the party. It wasn't one of Pilcher's novels I've read before, having definitely read the Shellseekers and September and a few of the shorter novels.

    I wasn't happy with the speed of Elfrida and Oscar's relationship and am not sure that that speed is healthy (it mirrored that of Nicola and Randall whatever, the American who whisked Lucy's inconvenient mother away). I have known of people being evicted from their homes fast after being widowed: three months was granted to a clergy wife in tied accommodation. I doubt very much probate had been granted within a month to allow the house to be sold. The usual time is 6 to 8 months and the rules are that contracts cannot be exchanged before probate is granted.

    For something I read in a fairly fast undigested gulp, I still picked up other details that were wrong:
    • the Pakistani shop on Putney High Street: Putney High Street hasn't had independent stores like that for as long as I've known it. It's much too smart.
    • Sam's redesign of the house was going to mean redesigning the upstairs if the staircase was to be moved. It sounded reasonable and something that would pass planning, but rather more extensive than suggested;
    • I wasn't convinced by the Fulham/Putney geography - I realise that having lived in Putney for some years and had a great-aunt live in some flats near Hurlingham does mean I probably know that geography better than others, so this is unfair criticism, however.
  • MaramaMarama Shipmate
    I can't comment on the details of London geography! However, I agree that the speed of Elfrida and Oscar's relationship marred the story to some degree, but in general I enjoyed the novel. I had not read anything by Pilcher before; I may try some others now. I particularly enjoyed Laura's character, and while her diary entries didn't move the plot along they did illuminate both her emotional reactions and those of others.

    I'm coming late to this as I've been travelling and a bit sporadic in my shipboard time. But it was a little odd to start the book in cold (though not snowy) London in December, and finish it in 38 degree heat in Australia!
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