Last summer when I was on vacation, I read Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home. The cover really looks like it’s a romance novel, but I assure you that it is not! Not that I minded that so much, though, because the cover just made it look like the perfect beach read that it was.
Last month when I was visiting home in Nashville and took a trip to McKay’s, I was determined to pick up another Pilcher book—any Pilcher book—for another great summer read. I opted for September, which was written five years before Coming Home but takes place about 40 years after and has equally as awful of a cover.
It is NOT an awful book, though! September takes place in the lush green landscape of Scotland sometime around what I can determine to be the 1980s. (It was written in 1990 and the narrative sounds rather ‘present’ as opposed to ‘past’.) Supposedly this is a very loose follow-up to her most popular, The Shell Seekers, but from what I’ve gathered, it only really has one character that sort of overlaps.
The Scotland in this story is one that still holds tradition close, especially in the upper echelon of society. It’s early summer in a rural Scottish town, and head matriarch, Violet Aird, is helping a neighbor plan a great big party for her daughter. Violet’s son Edmund is a businessman often away working, while his much-younger wife Virginia spends her days around the estate, caring for their 8-year-old son. Longtime friends of the Airds, Isobel and Archie (aka Lord Balmerino) are technically “rulers” of the land and estate, but declining income has brought them down to middle class, requiring them to open their home to vacationers during tourist season. Meanwhile, Edmund’s daughter Alexa has finally found a boyfriend in London (Noel Keeling; here’s where Shell Seekers comes in!); Archie’s free-spirited sister is debating a return to Scotland after decades away; and a mental patient returning home unnerves the entire family.
The great thing about this Pilcher book, like the last one I read, is that the tiny details don’t really matter. Pilcher writes with a style—a sweeping family narrative that has just the right amount of sentiment and drama; it’s never over the top with one or the other. You don’t need the details to get sucked in, and, frankly, you’ll probably forget most of them once you’ve finished. But with Pilcher, you don’t need to remember the details; the process of reading her books is simply enjoyable, and they have enough heft to keep you satisfied for a while. If you don’t even remember the characters’ names a week after turning the last page, you’ll at least recall, “Oh, I really enjoyed reading that. I should read more.”
**Note: The non-romance-y, legit-looking covers of several Pilcher books come from a 2005 re-issue by British publisher Hodder. This now makes sense why I can’t find them anywhere (yet, why are they default cover on Goodreads??).