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.