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Coming Home by Rosalind Pilcher (book recommendation and review)

I must warn you that I already blogged about this book. In fact, I dedicated a whole post to it on my other blog.  That post was written while I was still reading it, so it wasn't a review but more of a comment on a book I'm currently reading. Now, that I have finished this book (and returned) it to library, I'm ready to write my review of it. I must admit that I'm a bit torn about this one. There were parts of it that I quite loved but there were also parts that I didn't. It is not an ambitious novel and it is better than most things written in this genre (historical romance). This was my first novel by Rosalind Pilcher and it will probably be my last. That doesn't mean I didn't like this book, I'm just not interested in reading anything else by this author. With so many amazing authors out there, I would feel like I'm settling, but I don't regret reading this one. I gave it 3 starts on goodreads, so I obviously liked it. 

What I probably  loved the most was the opening of this book. It reminded me of Jane Eyre, but as the story progressed, I could see that any similarity to that classic is purely superficial. This novel is a coming of age story of Judith Dunbar, set in prewar, war and post WW2 Britain. At the star of this novel, I was rather fascinated by the relationship between Judith and her mother, who seems to be a push-over, but at the same time capable of some deep thoughts. I found it perplexing, how this woman whom both Judith (her daughter) and her own sister consider incapable of looking after herself, could write such a philosophical letter to her husband. That's one of few letters in the novel that were not just a waist of papers. Others seems to be terribly repetitive. As the novel opens, Judith seems a bit unrealistically mature for a 14 year old, but that is something that could have been ignored if her later development made sense...and yet somehow it didn't. It is like the doesn't change at all during the course of the novel, always being quite stoic and reasonable...and frankly, it doesn't make much sense because she is the protagonist of the novel. Judith cared for so many people and made a difference in so many lives through the course of this novel and while I found all of these minor characters and their life stories very interesting, I don't understand why author didn't give us a closer insight into Judith's soul. We get to know her at the start of the novel, but from then on, we only get to see what she does, not so much what she feels.

The other characters, like her school friend, Loveday, often seem much more realistic that Judith herself. In addition, there is only one villain in this novel (really!) and he is typical cartoon villain. He feels so out of place in this novel. Towards the end, there is one guy that turns out to be kind of bad, but it is obvious he is just a tool used to bring two people together again.There are plenty of stereotypical characters to be found in this one, but fortunately only that villain seems cartoonish. Most of the other characters, during the development of the novel, manage to be at least interesting, if not utterly convincing and appealing. The story itself seems to flow quite well, albeit sometimes in a manner that is not entirely convincing. There are some really lazy (some would call them convenient but for me it is more a case of laziness) plot twists. Moreover, I could see everything that happened coming. Except that inheritance things at the start of the novel, but that part didn't make much sense, did it?

Coming Home is not a great work of literature, that's for sure. It has little, if any literary merit. Why do I like it then? I'm not even sure, but there is something wonderfully familiar about it, something cozy, human and warm about the story itself. Perhaps it is the sum of all those human stories (and there are a lot of stories and characters in this one). Somehow when I look at all those human stories together, they do manage to convey a message. I found it hard to relate to any of the characters on a personal level because they felt somehow distant, like I was hearing their story narrated by a random person who is only semi-interested in them. The dialogues between the characters were often well written, I have to give credit to writer for that, but that was hardly enough to make the characters seem more real. I mean when it really comes down to it, it is a romance novel. I usually don't have mixed feelings about romance books, because usually I don't like them, as romance is not really my kind of genre, so my mixed feelings actually indicate something positive about this novel.

There are some lovely description of nature and I quite enjoyed them but for most part the writing is noting exceptional. As for the epistolary part of the novel, most of the letter writing in the novel was quite bad, almost like it was the same person writing all those letters- a waste of paper. One thing that seemed very genuine in this novel was the theme of loss. There is a lot of death in the war period (as it is to be expected) and while sometimes these deaths seemed a bit convenient for an easier development of the plot, the emotion and the heartbreak that a loss entails was well described. The romance part in this novel was quite hideous and not interesting especially when it comes to the protagonist ( Judith just seems too much of a victim, I can't understand why a woman capable of caring for so much people would have such a hard time writing a damn letter to somebody she cares about), but the historical part of the novel, as well as all the sum of all life stories shared, somehow made up for it. I mean they're parts of this novel that are quite ridiculous, badly written and silly, but there is still warmth to it and something universal that I can't quite describe. 


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