In the High Peaks

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher: 5+ Stars

I mentioned in a previous post that back in the early 2000s, I listened to the novel Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, in an abridged cassette format. (The novel was first published in 2000.) The narrator was Lynn Redgrave, and the listening experience was positively stellar. I vowed then that I would one day read the entire novel. Several years ago, I was lucky to pick up a pristine hardcover edition of the novel for a dollar at a library book sale.

At nearly 450 pages, Winter Solstice may seem a bit daunting at first glance, but I assure you I found the entire story to be so enchanting that I dreaded coming to the final pages.

At the beginning, the reader first meets Elfrida Phipps, a woman in her 50s, who was once an actress and then involved in a relationship with a wonderful man, who died several years previously. Following this loss, Elfrida leaves her life in London and takes on a much quieter existence in a village in Hampshire, where she is finding companionship and some contentment.

After spending a lovely autumnal month in Cornwall with extended family, she returns to her Hampshire village to find that a calamity has come upon her dear friends. Her friend Oscar has lost his family, and, as his older stepsons have determined, he has also lost his home.

Elfrida and Oscar venture forth to northern Scotland, where Oscar shares ownership of a house with his relations. In the beautiful seaside village of Creagan, Elfrida and Oscar manage, working together,  to settle in the house, right in the heart of the village, within sight of the church.

What then ensues, during that early December, is the step-by-step creation of a Christmas season in their village home. Each of the characters who come to the home Elfrida and Oscar are building,  have suffered a great loss in the past year or in recent months or weeks. Despite each person's personal pain, each character reaches higher to form close bonds over the Christmas holidays with each other and with their own pasts. Yes, there is a romance, or two, or three. But when bad things appear to happen, they are blown by the wayside by the immense generosity and spirit of each of the characters.

This novel is the best, most creatively imagined Christmas novel I have ever read. If you love the details of atmosphere in a novel, Pilcher has provided it and then some.


  1. This sounds really good. I actually even think I've got in somewhere but had forgotten all about it.

    1. Caroline,
      If it sounds at all familiar, you probably did read it. It was published in the 1990s--seems a long time ago now, when I stop and really think about it. Winter Solstice is a book I'd be likely to reread.

  2. I think it was the Scottish Highland setting that I liked best about this book. But I did appreciate the way she wrote about an alternative family, with the mothers being so self-absorbed as to neglect the daughter/granddaughter completely and others in the extended family stepping in. I think that that was quite realistic for more than a few families.

    1. Katrina,
      I think you hit the nail(s) on the head concerning what I liked most about the book. That Scottish village was just so wonderfully depicted--so perfect. And the "family" the characters made together was so healing, somehow. It felt healing to me. What a book--and well worth a re-read sometime.