So I ended up reading three Pilcher novels this holiday weekend. I needed something to do with myself so just decided to get those off my plate. I started with "Coming Home" and finished up with "Winter Solstice." I have to say that the only reason this one doesn't get five stars is that Pilcher was too afraid to allow one of the characters (Loveday) to have an unhappy ending. She had no one but herself to blame though, I just didn't find it realistic how she got her Happily Ever After. Other than that, I thought things were pretty much almost perfect.
Starting in 1935, "Coming Home" follows 14 year old Judith Dunbar. Judith is to be left behind to start boarding school in England, while her mother and 4 year old sister are going to join her father in Singapore. Judith ends up being brought into a family of a girl that she meets at boarding school, Loveday Carey-Lewis. Judith quickly becomes enthralled with the whole family, Diana (the mother), Edgar (the father), Athena (the older sister) and Edward (the older brother). Judith feels for the first time that she has a home with the Carey-Lewis's family and is reluctant to be away from them very much.
I really loved the character of Judith. She definitely realizes that life is not often fair. When she realizes that she is going to have to board and then vacation with her Aunt Louise (her father's sister) she takes things in stride. Luckily though, her aunt seems fond of her, and her mother's sister, her Aunt Biddy, is determined to be there for Judith and ensure that she have some fun.
Judith is sensible, loyal, and loving. She's also smart and we find that out via the marks she gets at her boarding school and when she is accepted into Oxford. I was hoping that the ending of the book would have Judith going back to school or something, but that is left up in the air. We just know who she ends up with (no spoilers) and it seems that she will be content with that life. We also find out she is resilient when we see what she does when she realizes a man close to one of her aunt's is after Judith (that whole sequence in the book was freaky). You are also going to feel sorry for Judith when she realizes her first love is full of it (no spoilers). I felt for her and wanted to throttle this person.
I thought the other characters in this book were great. I loved Judith's Aunt Biddy and her uncle as well. They both adored her and do their best to be there for her when a tragedy occurs that affects Judith.
The Carey-Lewis family definitely come alive. I have to say that even though he doesn't look it, the patriarch of the family is the strongest and definitely knows the weaknesses of the others. Athena I felt I didn't really get to know until about mid-way through the book. I initially liked Edward and then went meh. Loveday was selfish as the day was long. Pilcher makes all of these people feel like living and breathing people.
The writing was really good. The flow worked throughout too. I did think that the book was really long though. I get why though, even if I thought some pieces could have been cut a bit.
The backdrop of this book is the pre-war years and during and after World War II. Pilcher obviously knows of what she speaks (she lived through that) and I was fascinated about the details that were dropped. Who knew people would get fined for not having blackout curtains and if any sort of light came through. I did know about Dunkirk, but other incidents are mentioned in this one too. This book also ties what else is going on in Asia with the Japanese taking over in that region as well.
I thought the ending was a bit much though. I am glad Judith got her happy ending, but Loveday's was not even a bit realistic. That whole thing felt very rushed and so did Judith's understanding with the man she is going to marry. Due to the length of this book, Pilcher could have added on another 20-30 pages and had a more satisfying ending.