Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Monday, December 26, 2011

Title: Winter Solstice
Author: Rosamunde Pilcher
Genre: Contemporary fiction, cozy read
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000
Source: Personal copy

After losing the man she loves, Elfrida Phipps moves to a small cottage in a new village. She instantly falls into a close friendship with the Blundell family. However, when tragedy strikes, Elfrida and her new found friends bond together in order to survive the terrible experience, and over Christmas form new relationships that change their lives.

I first read Winter Solstice in high school, and I remember thinking it was one of the sweetest novels I had read. For the last couple of years I have been thinking of rereading it at Christmas, and this year I finally got to it. I am completely happy that I did; the story was even better than I remembered, and definitely put me in the Christmas mood.

The novel's charm is strongly focused in the setting and the characters. The story follows the characters from a small village in the English countryside to a cozy bed and breakfast owned by a loving family and finishes up in a Scottish estate. The descriptions of unmarked snow, delicious food and cozy holiday decorations fit both a Christmas and cozy read cliche, but the story manages to be comforting and refreshing, rather than typical and formulaic. Lately it seems as if everything I read or watch deals with the English countryside (Downton Abbey, Persuasion, etc.) and it makes me want to visit so much!

The characters are just as charming as the setting. The story is told from the (3rd person) point of view of five different characters, alternating chapters. Each character is from a very different area of life from the others: the aging, eccentric actress, Elfrida; the grieving, soft-spoken organist, Oscar; Elfrida's cousin, the heart-broken Carrie; Lucy, the neglected teenage daughter of Carrie's older sister; the stranger that breaks into their idyllic retreat, Sam. They all have different struggles to overcome, but they all work together to heal each others' wounds rather than selfishly butting heads and seeking their own interests.

Writing this, I can picture myself reading it and thinking, "What a cheesy, stereotypical comfort read." I'm not sure how to convey that despite the cozy elements, the book is completely unique and satisfying. It was even more enjoyable to me the second time around, and I plan to read it again in the future. This is a great, unique, and understated tale that is a perfect read for the holidays.

4 stars

Warnings: a smattering of language, vague allusions to the bedroom

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