The Shell Seekers is a family saga, replete with cultural, historical and generational contrast. You’ve got love, war, births, deaths, eating, laughing, painting, celebrating, mourning, and the satisfaction of unvarnished truth.
In the countryside and beside the sea, through the world of art and artists, and across five decades including wartime in England, the novel illustrates how love carries people through pain and disappointment.
Olivia and Penelope seemed to me to be the central characters, though you might have your own ideas. They were full of matriarch Sophie’s love, and spread it around the best they could despite their own wounded hearts.
Pilcher amused me with military characters, wartime rations, long walks home, and the laughter of love. I could feel the bit of ease in an otherwise structured general’s day, the cool juice of canned peaches, the tired thighs covered by a thin dress. And I could very well see the sparkle in the eyes of Sophie, Penelope and Antonia… and the men they loved.
The Shell Seekers also comments on family – disloyalty through selfishness, the effects of nurture vs. nature, and the rewards given to those who make life a little lighter for another. Do we all give ourselves to the people who need and appreciate it most?
At first it was difficult for my linear self to get into Pilcher’s rhythm of occasional flashbacks, but once I fell in love with the characters, I also fell into the rhythm. The novel was also on the long side as far as pleasure reading goes (can’t give five stars because some pages were pure skippable description without moving the plot forward). However, I was glad for every character, every kiss, every seaside gaze. I relished the daydreaminess of Sophia and Penelope… and then occasional bouts by Olivia. And despite deaths and some residual bitterness, the family pretty much lives happily ever after, leaving me with a satisfied smile and a full heart.
If you’re looking for a substantial, long, hearty, uplifting read, look no further. It may be available at your library, or click the title here to find it on Amazon: The Shell Seekers.