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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-12-06 19:29
It Was the Worst of Times...
The Empty House - Rosamunde Pilcher

It didn't occur to me this would fit for any tasks until I recalled that the Russian Mother's Day book tasks said read a book if it involves a mother. Luckily for me, the main character in this one is a mother of two.


Wow. I just cannot. This book was published in 1971 so I tried to make allowances for the main character Virginia. I just gave up that at the point that she literally decides to move her two children, who just lost their father, to live in a place with a man that she talked to only twice in her life, more than 10 years ago. 

I usually don't like to do spoiler reviews, but so great is my rage at this book, that I am going to do it.


So..."The Empty House" follows Virginia Keile. Virginia is visiting with an old friend of her mother's in Cornwall and essentially recovering from being made a widow at 27. Virginia has two young kids (a boy and girl) who are currently staying with her mother in law. It never seems to occur to Virginia that maybe she should be with her children by the way until the love interest pops up (I digress). This book really just goes into the backstory of Virigina and her love interest Eustace.


I hated almost every character in this one except for the kids and the poor mother in law. Virginia spends the book obsessing over Eustace. Though Virginia has been married for almost 10 years, she still wishes that Eustace had called her like he promised he would when she was visiting the family friends. She goes back and forth over everything and how even though she was 17 when she met his 28 year old self she fell for him. Their conversation was beyond boring and nothing of substance was even said. Sorry, the whole plot about her falling for him and he for her with the age differences just squicked me out. I would still argue how much did he fall for her though since the dialogue we get in this book is beyond boring. They just had two separate conversations. 


Virginia's mother is made to be the villain of the piece since she wanted her daughter to marry well, and probably had qualms about a 28 year old farmer romancing her daughter. I also didn't like Eustace since he was rude to everyone in this one, but hey, I guess he had ethics or something. I don't know.


“Hallo,” said Eustace, meeting her eye with an unblinking blue gaze.

Her hand was half-way out to shake his, but Eustace either didn’t see this or chose to ignore it.

Mrs. Parsons’s hand dropped back to her side.

Her manner became, subtly, a fraction more cool.

Yeah, if I meet someone for the first time that is trying to romance my daughter and they pulled this, I would totally be cool to them too.


Eustace is just nasty to Virginia from what I can see. He calls her a terrible mother for not being with her children and having them come and stay with her. He acts like the kids father as soon as they meet (it was disconcerting). And then pretty much within like a freaking day Virginia is all we will stay here and live with you forever. Let's go tell the children.


“I don’t think you can give a damn for your children. You don’t want to be bothered with them. Someone else has always done the washing and the ironing and you’re not going to start now. You’re too bloody idle to take them for picnics and read them books and put them to bed. It’s really nothing to do with Bosithick. Whatever house you found, you’d be sure to find something wrong with it. Any excuse would do provided you never have to admit to yourself that you can’t be bloody bothered to take care of your own children.”


Literally hasn't seen her for 10 years and this comes up.


“Well, what am I going to eat?” Eustace caught the tail end of this conversation as he came, dripping, up the beach. “What’s this?” He stopped to pick up a towel. “I’m very hungry and Mummy hasn’t brought anything to eat.” “Too bad,” said Eustace unsympathetically.


I guess screw kids being hungry and actually wanting food. I just cannot.


The book tries to paint Virginia as a victim to her mother and dead husband, but I had zero sympathy for her. She signed up for everything she got and didn't really care about her husband. She wanted something that she thought she glimpsed when she was in Eustace's home for maybe an hour 10 years ago. It felt childish to me. She put out zero effort with other people and just continued to allow things to happen to her. I assume if there was ever a sequel that Virginia would find herself fully under Eustace's thumb. That is 100 percent not love. 

The writing wasn't great. It just read as repetitive after a while. The dialogue between characters was stilted. The great reveal in the end about how Virginia was kept apart from her first love was beyond dumb. How she couldn't see that baffled me. Also who cares at this point?!


The flow was not good. I loved Piclher's other books so much and this one was just a dud. It was a chore to keep going since we had Virginia going back and forth about things and just generally acting like a victim the whole time.

The ending was ludicrous. She and her two kids are leaving Scotland forever to live with Eustace in Cornwall. I assume if there was an epilogue we would have heard how the mother in law tried to fight for custody or something. 


Russian Mother's Day

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review 2013-10-19 00:00
The Empty House And Other Ghost Stories
The Empty House And Other Ghost Stories - Algernon Blackwood I've come to expect a very high standard from Blackwood so when I encounter something of his that is only so-so, it might well be that I come across overly negative. This is only because I have such a high regard for him generally.

This is Blackwood's first published collection and, in my opinion, it shows. This is a Blackwood not yet at the height of his powers, writing supernatural stories in a more conventional manner than we went on to do later. Stories like "The Empty House" and "A Case of Evesdropping" are classic examples of quite predictable and deeply conventional ghost stories, albeit still told with is unique voice.

A few of the stories begin to rise above this. "The Wood of the Dead" is spectacular just for the way he evokes the feel of the time and place so well even though the plot itself is nothing special. In "A Suspicious Gift" a suitably weird and curious story develops only to fall flat at the end with the cop-out of a "it was all only a dream" finish.

The highlights of the collection for me were "With Intent to Steal" that was a most effective horror story and "The Strange Adventures of a Private Secretary in New York" which is just downright weird.

Perhaps this is a good place to start with his work but even then I'd chose a collection that spanned his career (such as [b:Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories|93220|Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories|Algernon Blackwood|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347255981s/93220.jpg|574316]). Still, as I said, there's nothing really bad in here. A solid collection of mostly conventional Edwardian ghost stories.
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review 2013-03-25 00:00
Rosamunde Pilcher: A Third Collection of Three Complete Novels: The Empty House; The Day of the Storm; Under Gemini - Rosamunde Pilcher This review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews:

This review is for an omnibus, including three complete novels.

The Empty House (1973) – 5 stars

A short and lovely novel. At a tad over 130 pages, it’s more of a novella than a novel and it reads in one breath. The protagonist Virginia is a 27-year-old woman, a recent widow with two young children. Timid and docile, she had always followed the currents, always been under the thumbs of others: her mother, her late husband, her mother-in-law, even her Nanny. Ten years ago, she was in love with a young Cornish farmer, Eustace, but her snobby mother disapproved, and nothing came out of that short summer fling.
Now, free of her loveless marriage after her husband’s death, Virginia returns to Cornwall, the place of happy memories. Under the bright summer sun, she seems to awaken at last from her prolonged submissive stupor. Like a sleeping beauty, revived by her prince’s kiss, she unfolds her wings and flies: to claim her beloved, her children, and her long-overdue independence.
The pace of this novel is not as frenetic as we’re used to today. Written in 1973, the story reflects the slower tempo of life: no cell phones, no internet. Instead, people have time to enjoy the sunset, to contemplate their relationships, to delve into their own psyche.
The descriptions in this book are amazing, among the loveliest I’ve read in fiction. Vivid and lyrical, transparent to all senses, the scenery is enchanting but muted. Nothing screams, but every page whispers with joy. I could almost see the “summer sea the color of hyacinths”, smell the salty breeze, taste the ice-cream the heroine coveted.
Nothing much happens in this tale, except on the emotional and intellectual planes, but I couldn’t stop reading. The story of Virginia’s inner metamorphosis, with all the unavoidable regrets, tinctured with bitterness, and hopes, infused with pink daydreams, captured me from the beginning and kept me glued to the pages until the triumphant end.

The Day of the Storm (1975) – 4.5 stars

This is also a short novel, about 150 pages. Rebecca, the protagonist, is twenty-one. Practical and self-reliant, she has no relatives except a flighty mother, who lives abroad with a never-ending succession of men. When Rebecca learns that her mother is dying, she rushes to the airport to spend the last days with her mother. Their single day together is heartbreaking in its intensity:
Mother just went on talking, like a toy that has been overwound and will only stop whirring senselessly around the floor when it finally breaks.

For the first time in her life, her mother tells Rebecca of her estranged family and of the things she had left behind many years ago: a mirror, some jade ornaments, a desk. Suddenly Rebecca craves them. It’s so much easier than yearning for love and connections, and her mother perceives the truth: Rebecca is longing for her roots.
“Would you like me to try and get hold of them?”
“More than anything. Not just because I need furniture, but because they belonged to you.”
“Oh, darling, how sweet, too jokey the way you long for roots, and I could never bear to have any. I always felt they would just tie me down in one place.”
“And I always feel that they would make me belong.”

Thus starts Rebecca’s odyssey, her discovery of a place to belong. Following her dying mother’s confession, Rebecca travels to Cornwall to meet her kin: a grandfather, an aunt, a cousin, and many others. Thrust into the middle of the complicated family dynamics, Rebecca navigates her way between kindness and greed, slyness and honesty.
The author populated her tale with several three-dimensional characters, each with his or her distinct personality, but Rebecca outshines them all. Learning to understand and accept her family, she is on an emotional rollercoaster, swinging from hour to hour between doubts and certainty, striving to find her own thread in the family tapestry.
The weather fits her fluid state of mind: on the cusp between winter and spring; the cold hasn’t exactly gone, the warmth hasn’t exactly arrived. But the storm is definitely brewing, and it will bring clarity.
It’s a wonderful novel, gripping and timeless. The pace is fast, the tension is palpable, and the protagonist would make a good friend to you and me.

Under Gemini (1976) – 4 stars

Since Shakespeare, many writers have touched on the theme of twins and switcheroo, but this book stands out despite its non-original plot. With its luminous prose and its faulty, sympathetic heroine, this novel is uniquely Pilcher, contemplative and deeply spiritual: a young woman searching for her identity under the rather dubious conditions.
At twenty-two, Flora is rootless and restless. No job. No apartment. By accident, she discovers that she has a twin sister, Rose, but after the initial shock of their encounter, Rose skips town, leaving Flora floundering among her doubts and uncertainties.
When Rose’s former fiancé Antony appears on Flora’s doorstep and asks her to impersonate Rose for one weekend—his grandmother Tuppy is purportedly dying and wants to see them together one last time—she allows herself to be persuaded. After all it’s in good cause; nobody will suffer from their small deception.
They travel to Scotland, and Flora meets Antony’s relatives and neighbors: a wonderfully diverse set of secondary characters. As it happens, Tuppy is recovering. Flora comes to adore the old woman, her entire clan, the town, and its people. Unfortunately, the young protagonist is trapped by her own well-intentioned lie. Unable to be herself, ensnared by Rose’s name and personality, Flora experiences identity crisis.
The situation is complicated by the trail of pain and betrayal Rose had left behind when she visited the place five years ago. Plunged into this bizarre good-twin vs. bad-twin scenario, how could Flora reassert her integrity? How could she rescue her future and convince the man she is falling in love with?
By turns compassionate and funny, light-hearted and soulful, the novel is set in a place that seems caught between times. Apart from the brief, flitting mentions of television and phone, the events of the tale could’ve happened a hundred years ago and now, and the heroine is just as timeless, immersed in her inner struggle, with almost no outer trappings. Only the ever-present sea reflects the turmoil and joy in her heart. The book could read equally well by a seventy-year-old granny and a twenty-year-old student.
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review 2012-11-17 00:00
Sherlock's Home: The Empty House
Sherlock's Home: The Empty House - Steve Emecz This collection of fan-written stories raises money in order to save Arthur Conan Doyle's house, Undershaw, from ruin, so it's money well-spent. However, as most fanfiction, the quality of the stories varies wildly - unfortunately mostly on the side of underwhelming (and badly edited), although there were a couple of gems, like a sci-fi story wherein John Watson returns to Old London from a war in outer space.
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review 2012-07-14 00:00
The Empty House
The Empty House - Rosamunde Pilcher Virginia returns to Cornwall 10 years after her last visit to "vacation" following the death of her husband. As she makes decisions regarding where her life and her children's lives will go from here, she shares the story of her first love and her marriage.A short and sweet story of loss, misunderstanding and rebuilding. I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the descriptions and details, the emotions and pain, and the realization of the truth. Virginia is catapulted into the past, a number of parts of her past. She even revisits her 17-year-old self and remembers. But then she goes forward....
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