It begins with twelve-year old Judith, who lives in England with her mother and her young sister. She is extraordinarily mature for her age, delightful, and thoughtful, and you walk with her through her life, from sweet childhood memories to a country on the brink of a second world war, and all the loss and disruption they experience in the late 1930s through the 40s. You meet her two aunts and a beloved uncle, the wonderful head mistress at her boarding school, and finally the large “adopted” family of her best friend Loveday who take her under their wing and she sets sail—following her heart.
Here is a passage from an early chapter:
For a moment she found herself alone. She could scarcely remember the last time when she had been truly on her own, with nobody to talk or ask questions, or jostle or barge, or tell her to do something, or to stop doing something, or ring a bell or claim her attention. She discovered that this was the most wonderful relief. Alone. By herself…
Alone. She realized how much she had missed the luxury of solitude, and knew that its occasional comfort would always be essential to her. The pleasure of being on one’s own was not so much spiritual as sensuous, like wearing silk, or swimming without a bathing suit on, or walking along a totally empty beach with the sun on your back. One was restored by solitude. Refreshed.
I love novels that weave history into the mix, that teach me about a time and place I barely knew, and yet through reading make me feel I have inhabited both. Rosamunde Pilcher is a treasure to discover. I love her descriptions of the English countryside, the people and the kitchens and sitting rooms and gardens where they gather and talk and share their secrets and dreams. She makes me laugh, cry, and ache with sadness. And always I discover love—with all its complexity, tenderness and beauty.
This is a book I found on a library shelf, somewhat worn and with edges tattered, smelling a sweet musty smell like old books often do. The title caught my eye. The story touched my heart.