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A Story That Never Really Got Under Way…

I’ve finally got round to posting my thoughts on Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Carousel which, if you remember, I won in a draw organised by Pam over at The Travellin’ Penguin, and read while en route to my Younger Daughter in London. I’m the first to admit this is not quite my usual literary fare, and it was my first encounter with this author. So… what did I think? Well, it won’t win any literary prizes, and the names of the characters didn’t stick in mind afterwards (although the story and their roles in it did). I wouldn’t want to read it again, but it was a pleasant, enjoyable read for a journey – a fairy tale with a happy ending, and you know much I enjoy happy endings!
It follows the fortunes of Prue, who abandons a trip in Scotland with her boyfriend (a suitable prospective husband according to her aspirational mother) for the delights of Cornwall (what’s not to like there!) caring for her scatty artist aunt who has broken her arm. On the train she meets lonely, unwanted, 10-year-old Charlotte, who is headed for the same village, to stay with her unloving grandmother, because the school boiler blew up, her mother is on holiday, and her father can’t (or won’t) look after her. All suitably scatty I thought – and I rather liked the idea of reading about a train journey while I was on a train journey. Note to Self, as the Provincial Lady would say, to find more train books for future journeys. There’s always The Railway Children, one of my childhood favourites, which I still read, but does anyone have any other recommendations?

Oh dear, I got distracted (again), so back to the book in hand. Once in Cornwall Prue meets curmudgeonly famous artist Daniel, who is back after a 10-year gap. Prue instantly falls head over heels in love with the stranger, but there is a mystery in his past which he will not talk about. So far, so good, I thought.
But it’s a very slender book, and the scene is barely set before everything is tidily wrapped up – I did feel a little short-changed, as if the story never really got under way at all. And, since everything is compressed into such a short period (less than two weeks, which is nowhere near long enough to fall in love, overcome all obstacles, and accept a proposal of marriage) there is no time for plot development or growth of characters. The story and its people arrive fully formed – well, as formed as they are ever likely to be. It means the action, such as it is, is rather predictable, and the characters, engaging though they may be, never step out of their allocated roles, and remain caricatures. It’s almost like an embryonic idea for a story which hasn’t been worked up into a proper novel, and there are no emotional depths, and no universal truths, but I’m not complaining (even though it sounds as if I am), because what you see is what you get, and it makes no pretence to be anything other than a light, fluffy read, and it was great fun, and I did enjoy it.
I’m curious to see how it compares to Pilcher’s longer work – The Shell Seekers, perhaps, which is also set in Cornwall.
Anyway, I’m grateful to Pam for introducing me to an author I might not otherwise have read, and I hope she doesn’t mind, but I’ve passed the book on  to my mother, who will read it, then give it to the little ‘library’ run by residents of the sheltered flats where she lives, so it will get well read in the months ahead.
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Author:

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

4 thoughts on “A Story That Never Really Got Under Way…

  1. Graham Greene's Stamboul Train? I've also really enjoyed Lisa St Aubin de Teran's Slow Train to Milan, and Off the Rails: Memoirs of a Train Addict. I've never read any Rosamunde Pilcher – maybe this isn't the one to start with.

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  2. Of course I don't mind. It's your book. 🙂 I agree with your review. It is just a bit of fluff to while away a short amount of time and I think pretty good for a train ride. The Shell Seekers was much much better. I read it back in the 70's I believe it was and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Isn't it fun that little book gets to travel around a bit.

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  3. I like the idea of it winging its way out into the world… and when all the residents who want to read it have done so, it will probably get passed on to someone's friend or relative, or given to one of the local charity shops, so its journey will continue…

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  4. Ooh thank you Vicki – I've had problems with Graham Greene in the past, with the exception of Travels with my Aunt, which is wonderful, but this one could be more accessible. And the Lisa St Aubin de Teran book sounds as if it could be exactly the sort of thing I like.

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