Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is a painting titled “The Shell Seekers”, painted by her father. Penelope has recently had a heart attack which has prompted her to take inventory of the many experiences she’s had in her richly unconventional life. As her father’s works have become popular and are now worth a fortune, Penelope’s children each have an idea as to what should be done with the beloved painting, none of which Penelope likes. As she reminisces she realizes the perfect solution – one that would have thrilled her father and one that warms her own heart.
Sissy: The vague memory in my head was that I loved all of Rosamund Pilcher’s books, so I decided to review The Shell Seekers, which was one of her best sellers. While I still think the book is very good, in re-reading it I found that some of the characters live a rather more morally Bohemian lifestyle than I had remembered. Nothing spelled out or explicit–just mentioned as part of the story. That having been said, Pilcher doesn’t shy away from the consequences of such a lifestyle–which include unplanned pregnancies, loveless marriages, and some lost chances for true love.
Bubby: La la la la gardening, la la la la sandy beaches, la la la sunshine breaking through clouds, la la la art and romance, la la la . . .
Sissy: What are you doing, you crazy person?
Bubby: La la . . . what? Oh! Sorry. I was immersed in my lovely little kitchen garden in the back of my tiny stone cottage in Cornwall. You know, in my dreams! I think we should add Cornwall to
the list of places we absolutely must visit before you are too old to journey, Sissy.
Sissy: Well I’m so glad you haven’t been sipping the crazy sauce and are just doing your usual “Dame Bubby” dream world weirdness. I am having a significant birthday soon, so feel free to send us to Cornwall post-haste! However, I would be glad to not be there during World War II, as some of this book is. No bombs or rationing, please darling.
Bubby: As much as I would love to whisk you away for your significant birthday (70 is the new 30, darling!) I am afraid all my money is currently going to pay the plumber who is at this moment filling my home with strange fumes and has turned off all my water. So if I get a little loopy today, it’s the plumber’s fault, ok? I am always shocked when I read WWII era books at the deprivations ordinary people had to suffer through. No gasoline, no sugar, no chocolate!!, no new clothes, make it all yourself or go without. I feel quite spoiled. The Shell Seekers moves seamlessly from the WWII era to modern-day (about 1984 or so).
Sissy: Okay, so our main character Penelope is minding her own business and living her life in Cornwall, when she suffers a heart attack. This is the beginning of her life story. And p.s., in the far-flung future when I turn 70, I will be the sexiest 70 yr old you’ve ever seen! Any hoodle, Penelope’s 3 children appear and we get to know all about them and their lives. Two of them are completely selfish and bratty, and the other is at least a functional and compassionate adult. Each chapter is named after a character in the book, and the reader gets to travel back and forth through time and enjoy the ins and outs of the family saga. There is a lovely little art mystery woven in there as well.
Bubby: While I was reading this earlier in the week, one of my teenagers was giving me grief and I was getting rather annoyed. And then I read more about Noel and Nancy and Olivia, Penelope’s children, and suddenly my kid didn’t seem so bad!
Sissy: No, your kids are not greedy, backstabbing monsters who think they are entitled to everything and want to do nothing to earn it.
Bubby: Thank you, Sissy! I was appalled at the behavior of the so-called adults in this tale. At least Olivia had some sense and feeling and it was obvious that she was her mother’s favorite. My favorite characters, at least two of them, were Antonia and Danus. They were so sweet to Penelope and so in love and deserved all the good things that happened to them!
Sissy: A sweeping saga of family, love, and history, The Shell Seekers is good for an afternoon or two of getaway-ing. I give it 3.75 bubbles. And now I want to watch the movie!
Bubby: And it’s been made into not one, but two movies! One in 1989 starring Angela Lansbury as Penelope and one in 2006 starring Vanessa Redgrave, both of which were well rated (but 2006 sounds better). I can see a movie and popcorn night in mine and Sissy’s future! 3.5 bubbles.