This is one of those “oldie but goodie” types of books that I never got around to reading when it was first published 27 years ago. I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it in September.
Penelope Keeling is the aging main character, who spends part of the novel reflecting back on her life during World War II in Cornwall. She marries Ambrose Keeling, whom she doesn’t love, and when Ambrose is sent off to war, begins an affair with Richard, a British naval officer.
At the outset of the novel, Penelope struggles with her three adult children – two of which only seem interested in her for her assets – mainly paintings by her father that have suddenly become popular at auction.
I’m always a sucker for a storyline about art, and the conflict of monetary versus sentimental value. For me, this made the novel well worth reading. I also enjoy historical fiction, and while Pilcher didn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked, I did appreciate Penelope’s reminiscences of World War II. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the Cornwall countryside, the ocean and Penelope’s cottage and gardens.
I find it interesting that the values of the 1980’s came through loud and clear in this book. No hang-ups about sex or extra-marital affairs. It’s very typical of novels written at that time, but seem somewhat shocking to read about those attitudes today. While the author does try to explain that Penelope and her parents lived a bohemian lifestyle, I still doubt that family values would have taken a backseat during the 1940’s. Still, it was a fun read, and I needed some lightness after immersing myself in classics.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1987