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A Place Like Home: Stories

Review

A Place Like Home: Stories

I remember reading that when Rosamunde Pilcher died in Scotland at the venerable age of 95 in 2019, millions of fans heaved a collective sigh of grief that could be heard around the globe --- well, psychically at least.

Every one of them surely will rejoice over the posthumous release of A PLACE LIKE HOME, a harmoniously curated anthology of 15 short stories from the late 20th century. These tales have never before been published between hard covers, and some have never been published in any form.

The Cornwall native, who didn’t really hit her stride as a published author until well into middle age, produced several decades’ worth of stories and novels so timeless and universal in feeling that practically anyone, anywhere in the English-speaking world, could read and enjoy them. And with a number of her works translated into other languages, the audience just kept growing. In fact, she was nearly 60 when her multi-million-copy bestseller THE SHELL SEEKERS came out, easily the best known of her 16 novels and story collections.

"[W]hat sets Pilcher apart, leagues apart, from stereotypical romance writers is her magical economy of descriptive language and the sheer physical rhythm of her prose."

A PLACE LIKE HOME continues Pilcher’s elegant and accessible romance fiction focusing almost entirely on women's hearts and their varying proximity to men --- some missing, some deceased, some too close, others too far, some adored, others repellent. As one who detests the general run of paperback romances, with their stodgy predictability, over-the-top (embarrassingly at times) vocabulary, unconvincing plots and bizarre logic, I find it a little odd that the adventures of Pilcher’s love-struck heroines don’t bore me to death...far from it.

After all, Pilcher’s short stories are formulaic to a T --- sized and expressed to fit the pages and values of the conservative women’s magazines that most of our mothers read, and even let their impressionable teen and preteen daughters read. Those stories were her bread-and-butter as a writer long before she hit the bestseller lists.

But what sets Pilcher apart, leagues apart, from stereotypical romance writers is her magical economy of descriptive language and the sheer physical rhythm of her prose. She doesn’t go in for big surprises or shock effects when neatly unravelling life-changing coincidences, describing her always-at-hand tall, dark, male strangers, or summarizing the tragedies of a young woman’s life in a single sentence. Nor does she even allude to sex through suggestive language of any kind. Yet her stories are filled with the sensual aura of relationships made complete, or torn apart, by it.

At some level, every story in A PLACE LIKE HOME captures this enticing aura, whether it’s the resigned fade-out of “The Holiday,” in which a woman struggles (and fails) to reawaken her husband’s interest in her, or the “The Eye of Love,” in which an unexpected meeting (a favorite plot seasoning) conjures up what might have been.

Admittedly, the 15 stories flowed into one another for me as if they were all savory chapters of the same composite mid-century white woman’s life, with changes of name and hair color for variety. Basically, what we have here is one-size-fits-all, but in the same way that a favorite cake is so good every time because --- and only because --- its perfect recipe is followed exactly. Which is what Rosamunde Pilcher, bless her heart, mastered down to the last syllable.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch on July 31, 2021

A Place Like Home: Stories
by Rosamunde Pilcher

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250274958
  • ISBN-13: 9781250274953