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Elfrida Phipps loves her new life in the pretty Hampshire village. She has a tiny cottage, her faithful dog Horace and the friendship of the neighbouring Blundells - particularly Oscar - to ensure that her days include companionship as well as independence. But an unforeseen tragedy upsets Elfrida's tranquillity: Oscar's wife and daughter are killed in a terrible car crash and he finds himself homeless when his stepchildren claim their dead mother's inheritance. Oscar and Elfrida take refuge in a rambling house in Scotland which becomes a magnet for various waifs and strays who converge upon it, including an unhappy teenage girl. It could be a recipe for disaster. But somehow the Christmas season weaves its magical spell and for Elfrida and Oscar, in the evening of their lives, the winter solstice brings love and solace.
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One time actress Elfrida Phipps retires to a country cottage but is almost immediately reactivated through the personal tragedy of a comparatively new friend, Oscar Blundell, with whom she moves to an imposing old house, his shared inheritance, in Scotland. As Christmas approaches they are joined by a lovelorn cousin, Carrie, and her 14-year-old niece, Lucy, who is currently bothersome to the progress of her mother's new found love, and to her grandmother's hedonistic lifestyle. Sam Howard, troubleshooter in the textile industry, recently separated from his wife, arrives on the doorstep and finds himself unwittingly part of the soon-to-be snowbound family over Christmas. "Are you still snowed in with us, Sam? I hope so," says Edwina. "It would be such fun for all of us to be together." And so they all live happily ever after.
Lynn Redgrave, a good reader, voices the characters well but there's a recurrent smugness of expression that neutralises feelings of sympathy for this assortment who are destined by too many coincidences. A story without tension, the burdens of bereavement and finance and pleasures of romance and companionship are determined by unlikely turns of fate and the benefit of acquaintances who facilely solve the problems. --Running time 6 hours--Lyn Took Review:
As always, Pilcher is a sensible fairy godmother, bestowing happy endings upon the worthy and heartsick. . . [she has a] . . . remarkably evocative sense of place and watercolorist's eye for muted detail. (Kirkus Review)
enchanting . . . bound to delight her many thousands of fans. (Daily Express)
Pilcher's strength is knowing what she can do well and writing about what she knows. She has a way of tapping into the emotional life of her readers and making them care about characters not unlike themselves. (Daily Telegraph)
An entrancing tale of middle-aged love, broken hearts and teenage angst (Daily Express)
Rosamunde Pilcher's warm spell is charming and utterly convincing (Daily Mail)
Unashamed hymns to the virtues of domesticity, continuity and human warmth. And (they are) thundering good reads (Lady)
Another dose of the kind of heartwarming, gentle fiction for which she is known and loved . . . like a big mug of cocoa in front of a blazing fire on a winter night ( Press & Journal, Aberdeen)
A gentle tale of everyday happenings to a set of well-drawn and believable characters (Peterborough Evening Telegraph)
A beautiful, haunting story. . . that will tug at your heartstrings (Prima)
Whether she is being poignant, wry or perceptive, Rosamunde Pilcher is always gentle (Woman's Realm)
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