I've been reading a lot lately. Books, I mean. This year has been beyond stressful, and books can be so comforting and such a lovely escape. I've recently notices that even my usual reading material, namely Facebook, the NYTimes and science news has become incredibly stressful. FB is hard to read because of the sheer numbers of people who post things that I just cannot agree with. I also see too many things that I don't want to see - the bad far outweighs the good on FB these days. I think reading the NYTimes is also stressful - this election, shit blowing up, people being batshit insane - it's just too much. And science, well, I'm stressed out about publishing, finding a job, etc, etc, so it's stressful to see cool science published when I know I have so much on my plate to deal with.
So I started with Harry Potter, naturally. I love that series and I've read it about a hundred times. It was nice to visit the world again, I always notice something new or forgotten. It's like returning to your childhood bedroom again, after all these years.
At my mom's house, I raided her library - always a good idea. She had had these books by Rosamunde Pilcher for years and years. I remember seeing them on our shelves when I was a kid. I hated the way they looked - all flowery and pastel colored. But my mom called them "gentle", which was exactly the type of book I was looking for. So, I came home with a bunch and I've just now finished The Shell Seekers. I'm not actually sure what this book was about. Family, I suppose, is the easiest answer. But it was so much more that that. The book follows Penelope, at the beginning of the book, a grandmother who has just had a heart attack, is returning home after being in hospital. As cliché as is sounds, this book is like an onion. It's only until you reach the end that you see all the ends tied together and all the stories come into one. Penelope's father was an artist, and his art is experiencing a resurgence in the market. She has only three of his works, and two of her children jump on her to sell the works, mostly because they want the money. Only one child, her daughter, Olivia, tells her to do what she wants with the paintings. Olivia is well off, a career woman with no family, and has made her own way in the world. The reader then gets taken on a journey of Penelope's life - her upbringing, her marriage, the birth of her children. She lived through WWII in England, raised children in London. Experienced the Bohemian art scene and the horrors of war. She really is an amazing character. Her children and their stories intertwine with hers, as well as some new characters that she meets along the way. In the end, Penelope herself decides what to do with her paintings, and the whole story ends quite satisfactorily.
Once I got into this book, I couldn't put it down. But I can't exactly tell you why. What the characters do in the story is quite mundane. Penelope is a retired grandmother and had almost always been a home-maker, so all the "action" of the story is the mundane of life - making tea, having a drink, putting the wash out to dry, gardening. The characters, both good and bad, make this story. They are so interesting and mostly likable, that I wanted to sit in a kitchen with most of them and have a cup of tea. The scene descriptions were beautiful - the sounds, the smells, the ambience. It was a lovely read, and just like my mom said, very "gentle".