I first read this book as an older teenager after my mum raved about it. I've had fond memories of it ever since and pick it up every 5 years or so for another read.
Penelope Keeling, in her mid-sixties, has just had a minor heart attack. She has returned home of her own accord to the consternation of her children: Nancy (the eldest, responsible and over-bearing); Noel (flighty, spendthrift & selfish) and Olivia (Penelope’s favourite).
Penelope’s father was Lawrence Stern, a painter whose work has slowly gained in value over the years. She has a number of his works and her children would quite like to get their hands on them, or at least the money they would earn.
With various flashbacks we learn of the entirety of Penelope’s life, concentrating on her early twenties during WWII. It’s a lovely story, with a good variety of characters thrown in. We are clearly not meant to like two of her children, yet other young people grace Penelope’s life who she comes to have great affection for.
It’s interesting to read again now because as a young woman, I loved the character Olivia, she was strong, successful & independent. Now I think she is a little sad – career driven and refusing to open her life up to almost anyone. Our perceptions do change over time!
This has been one of Pilcher’s most loved & acclaimed novels. I tried other books of hers over the years, but felt nothing else ever matched it for scope, interest or storyline.
A lovely, long book about families and friendships, with all their highs and lows.