The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
I chose to read The Shell Seekers to fulfill the “read a book your mom loves” challenge on the 2015 PopSugar challenge, and I got about what I expected.
The Shell Seekers takes place in England in 1984 (and no, there’s no Big Brother), and follows the story of Penelope Keeling, a 64-year-old woman who just had a heart attack. The reader is introduced to her three children: Nancy, Olivia, and Noel; and her backstory is woven through the present. The Shell Seekers, a painting for which the book is named, is the last bit of her old life in Cornwall and her father than Penelope has left. When other works by her father, Lawrence Keeling, come onto the market and sell for a large sum, her children ask Penelope to look into selling the three artworks she has left.
The plot is simply the life of Penelope, from a young girl traipsing from Cornwall to London to France with her bohemian parents, to that of a young adult trapped in the midst of a war and a loveless marriage, to as she is in the present, a fiercely independent woman.
This book is more about the characters than the plot, though there is a hidden love story that influences many of Penelope’s decisions later on and is heartbreakingly beautiful; the characters are what drive the book, however.
Where Penelope is kind and generous and independent and loving, her children are the opposite. Nancy is lazy, ungrateful, and whiny; Noel is spoiled, flighty, and wheedling; and Olivia, the best of the three, can be cold and unloving at times (though her stint in Ibiza was one of my favorites in the book). I got very upset at Nancy and Noel, especially, with the remarks and treatment they gave their mother.
Antonia and Danus, however, are wonderful and lively, and the reader can see why Penelope would want to spend time with them instead of her own children, who mollycoddle, look down upon, and can’t be bothered with her. They are a breath of fresh air in the novel, and help keep it young.
The pace was a bit slower, simply because it was a dense novel packed with details, and the character-driven structure, which I liked, didn’t help with the pacing as it allowed the reader to really get to know the characters.
While I didn’t love it, I did appreciate the themes of family and independence, as those are things I value as well. I can only hope to be like Penelope when I’m older.