Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher is a big fat book. Huge. Gargantuan. Colossal. Behemothic. Leviathan. Cyclopean. Titanic.
Sorry, I got slightly carried away by all the exciting synonyms for huge but you have to admit that, at 1040 pages in paperback, it’s not a one-hander! In fact, it’s one of the books I have on my book shelf but also on my ereader because of its size. Well, I say it’s because of its size but in truth, it’s also because I can’t actually pick up the physical book any more without the binding falling even further apart, and random pages falling out!
Safe to say, this is one of my most read and most loved books. I read it when I’m happy. I read it when I’m sad. I read it when I am stressed or when I want to shut the world out. I read it every summer holidays and every Christmas holidays. I read it on planes, trains but not automobiles. If I don’t have time to read it all, I just put a random page number into my ereader and start from there- there’s no need to remind myself of the story, I already know it.
Coming Home, for me, is emotional perfection.
Which doesn’t blind me to the fact that, actually, it’s a book with a few flaws despite its emotional heart.
Set initially in Cornwall in the 1930s, it follows the story of Judith Dunbar who, when her mother and little sister return to the Far East to be with Judith’s father, is sent to a boarding school in Penzance. Whilst at school Judith meets Loveday Carey-Lewis, youngest and most pampered daughter of a rich Cornish landowner who takes her home to Nancherrow. The characters are many and varied, and are, in the main, well rounded and relateable. Judith, however, could do with more growth and more openness in how she is written- by the end of the book, I don’t feel I know her any better than at the beginning. This doesn’t prevent me connecting with the book, in fact I wonder if it facilitates it by virtue of allowing me to put myself in her place. I see a lot of my friends and family in Pilcher’s characters and, frankly, could easily imagine my life being Judith Dunbar’s if I had been born in a different year!
The story continues into the war years, and the book does suffer somewhat from the rose-tinted spectacle approach but is still accurate enough to satisfy the historian! In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. It gives all sorts of little tidbits about the war which turn out to be wholly accurate and real (Yes, I have checked the more obscure ones!), and the Naval parlance is also accurate.
I didn’t actually live in Cornwall when I first read this book but now that I do, it just increases my enjoyment of reading it- I know all of these places!! Even the ones she makes up a name for! (Porthkerris? Yes, ok if you insist!) Pilcher grew up here in Cornwall and her love for the county shines through her wonderfully evocative descriptions. She makes Cornwall sound amazing all year round- although I do question the number of magical summer days with no rain they seem to have!
This certainly isn’t high literature but that isn’t why I read it. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to be whisked away for a few hours (actually many hours).
5 bites (but really 4 if I’m being more objective about it)