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The Shell Seekers Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On the heels of a hasty wartime marriage, Penelope Keeling is left to repent at leisure in the English seaside town of Porthkerris, where her artist father and her French mother are spending the duration of World War II. Safe in the embracing arms of that warm household, Penelope forgets her sour husband and takes a lover, and in that relationship, too, she weathers the war's privations and its hardest blows. In a beautifully detailed family saga that shifts effortlessly back and forth in time, Pilcher (Under Gemini) recounts Penelope's story and that of her three children. When their grandfather's work suddenly comes into vogue, Nancy, obsessed over status, and sleek Noel, adept at getting the most and giving the least, join in urging their mother to sell The Shell Seekers, a painting that gives her great joy. Only Olivia, a cool and collected magazine editor, refuses to be party to their barely concealed avarice. Pilcher's 13th book is a satisfying and savory family novel, in which rich layers of description and engagingly flawed characters more than make up for the occasional cliche. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; Troll Book Club main selection.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As this absorbing saga of a modern English family opens, 64-year-old Penelope Keeling is returning to her country house following a heart attack, and her three adult children have varying reactions to the news. The narrative is actually a series of deftly interwoven vignettes that shift back and forth in time; each chapter centers on one of the principal players in the family's history. The unifying thread is an oil painting entitled "The Shell Seekers," done by Penelope's father. Pilcher's characters are well-drawn, real, and engrossing people. A thoroughly charming book for most fiction collections. Troll Book Club main selection.Maria A. Perez-Stable, Western Michigan Univ. Libs., Kalamazoo
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Shell Seekers (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 582 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; 0010-Anniversary edition (July 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312961324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312961329
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (528 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Denise Bentley on September 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This has got to be one of the best books I have ever read. Pilcher takes you in, warms your heart and then wraps you up in the tales of her story, which is spun so intricately with love. Her writing style leaves no corner of a setting or character uncovered. You can see the tilt of their head or an upturned smile, even the scent that they might be wearing or the sea breeze as the wind whips the hair against your face. She is a master.
Penelope is in the later years of her life. After time spent in the hospital she is facing her mortality, along with the present she is remembering her life, loves, and secrets. One of which she has carried quietly over the decades. She is taking a good hard look at her 3 grown children who have not all turned out like a mother might hope for. As they quibble over Penelope's assets she is disgusted by their behavior.
I became so entranced by this book that it was all I wanted to read. There are several surprises along the way and the book is filled with characters that are quite memorable. I have read and enjoyed many of Pilcher's works, one of my favorites being WINTER SOLSTICE, but I have to say this was indeed my favorite of all time. Kelsana 9/01/01
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on January 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I doubt that anyone who reads "The Shell Seekers" will ever forget Penelope Keeling and her three children---Nancy, Olivia, and Noel. Nor will they be likely to forget Sophie, Lawrence, Danus, Antoinia, Richard, and the other characters that move through this spell-binding, heart-enriching novel.
Mrs. Pilcher sets out to explore the disastrous effects that the prospect of an inheritance can have on a normal family. She also combines the lifestyle of upper-class Bohemians and the days before, during, and after World War II to tell a story that will be forever fresh.
From the beautiful beaches of Cornwall to the idyllic setting of Ibiza to the bustling life in London, Rosamunde Pilcher transports readers to a world as satisfying as a cup of tea with a plate of warm scones.
You will see Penelope grow up in the sheltering world of her artist father and young, French mother. You will share her first love with Ambrose, her true love with Richard, her most wonderful joys and her deepest heartbreaks. You will see her anguish with her three adult children as she struggles to give them independence and feels their venom. You will see her come to terms with her life and her beloved painting of "The Shell Seekers."
I first read this book several years ago and only yesterday finished a second reading of it. I found it even more warm and heartfelt than ever. I will make it a point to savor this most marvelous book every few years just for the pure joy it gives.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Busy Mom VINE VOICE on February 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Penelope Keeling is a character that you just cannot help but love ~~ hosting dinner parties for friends and family, wearing shabby clothes simply because clothes aren't that important to her and talking about wine, literature and art ~~ sounds perfect to me! I am not fond of Nancy and Noel ~~ two of her children who seems to expect too much from their mother, while Olivia is my favorite child ~~ she's so much like her mother except for being career-driven. She doesn't put many demands on her mother ~~ she's the daughter every mother wishes she has!
Pilcher writes convincingly of the human relationships between Penelope and her children as well as the other characters. She writes of ordinary lives transformed by love. Her descriptions of Cornwall are so vivid that you can almost see the breakers on the beach as well as smelling the salt in the air. It must be artists' paradise!
What captures my fancy is how Penelope is such a warm-hearted person who uses her inheritance to pay for a trip home. Too many people expect their parents to leave them money after they have gone, whereas Penelope spends her inheritance prudently and wisely. She has never followed the rules and she does it with so much grace and love ~~ it makes one want to be more like her instead of like two of her greedy children.
This book covers more emotions and depths of the human lives and these characters become as real as your family. It's a great summer read (or even a winter read ~~ with a pot of hot tea nearby and delicious scones!) and the characters will linger long after the last page is turned.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on December 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Penelope, an older woman with three grown children, has just been released from the hospital after having a heart attack. It seems as though she won't live forever. Her kids, Nancy, Olivia, and Noel, seem to realize this and react in different ways. Nancy and Noel are desperate for their mother to sell the artwork of her father, whose paintings have recently become very valuable. They think of the ways in which the money would come in useful to them. Olivia, the middle child and her mother's favorite, is in denial about her mother's age and health, and is really too busy with her career to spend much extra time with her.

Penelope decides that she needs to make some decisions about how she wants the rest of her life to be, and what she wants to happen to her father's precious artwork.

I liked the way this book is so thorough with Penelope's history, going back in time to examine her parents' relationship as well as her own youth. I also liked how each chapter comes at the story from a different angle, through the inclusion of a specific character. There are some truly fascinating side stories in this novel.

I didn't find many of the characters likable or sympathetic, though. Penelope is often thoughtless and immature, and her interactions with Nancy as a baby made me sad for Nancy. Nancy and Noel are terrible people, not even veiling their greed when it comes to their mother's artwork and potential cash inflow. Olivia is cold and harsh. I would have liked to have seen more characters whose lives I really enjoyed.
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