Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reading Roundup: Sweeping Sagas


Because it’s probably hard to keep track of my reading tastes from 4 years of random blog posts, I’m just gonna state as a fact that I love sweeping historical fiction sagas. Love ’em. I will devour them. And because such novels are often chunksters, not only are the stories enjoyable, they feel extra rewarding when you finally get through them! I’ve read a couple lately that I’d recommend to any other fan of such types of books.

The first is another Rosamunde Pilcher pick, Winter Solstice. As I’ve posted before, she has become one of my favorite authors I would’ve never picked up, because, if you remember, she was cursed with a publicity department that made all her book covers look like romance novels. And not that there’s anything wrong with that genre, it just scares off some folks and is also deceptive…these aren’t romance novels!

The main character of Winter Solstice is the middle-aged Elfrida Phipps who’s just moved to the quaint village of Hampshire and befriended a local family—Oscar, a retired musician, his wife Gloria, and their preteen daughter Francesca. Then we have Carrie, a young woman returning to England after the end of a relationship in Austria; and Sam, a young man returning to England after a failed marriage in New York to revive a local textile mill. Each having suffered their own tragedies, these people converge at Corrydale, a cozy old Scottish estate, where they each aim to escape and find solace.

Of course their lives intermingle as relationships form between Pilcher’s characters that each have their own very different past. Creating these relationships is what Pilcher is good at. Everyone has a story, and everyone is likable; the tragedies and pitfalls are always situational, never the fault of cruelness or selfishness in others. Her stories highlight the positive attributes of people with an always optimistic tone. The endings will always be happy, so I guess in that sense, she does follow the rules of Romance. All Pilcher’s novels I’ve read have a cozy setting, and this one particularly so—perfect for cold winter days bundled under a blanket!

The other family saga I recommend is Leila Meacham’s Roses. Set in small-town Texas where cotton, timber, and textiles are in the town’s very foundation, Roses tells the story of the three industries’ founding families and the choices that led them where they are today.

The story opens with the last day of Mary Toliver’s life, when the reader finds out a last-minute change to her will is going to bequeath her cotton empire to timber tycoon Percy Warwick instead of her niece, the always-intended successor. What follows is a decades-long history that explains Mary’s decision, revealing the relationships, secrets, and tragedies that have defined the Tolivers, Warwicks, and Dumonts.

Like Winter Solstice, Roses is a chunkster, but it also reads very fast. The narrative jumps between past and present keep attention without confusing and slowly reveal new pieces to the puzzle. Mary Toliver is a really headstrong, independent, and passionate character that you want to fully understand, and you keep reading with the hope the story will help you do so. Ultimately, the story is about making choices about what’s most important in your life and living with those consequences. I thought the ending wrapped up a little quickly, but it didn’t detract from the reading experience before that; I wasn’t ready to see the conclusion of these characters!

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