The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher


The Shell Seekers and Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher remain two of my favorite books.  It’s rare that I will reread a book unless I need a comfort read so to speak.  I needed that recently and desired to immerse myself into this story and return, through print, to Cornwall, London, Devon and Ibiza.

There was much I had forgotten so there were happy surprises.  This book was written in 1987 and therefore a bit dated.  We open with our central character Penelope Keeling who is 64 years old.  She has discharged herself from the hospital after a heart attack and once you get to know her, you will get a sharp mental image of this strong, kind and likeable woman. She was brought up by an artist father, Lawrence Stern, and her French mother Sophie. There are many references and scenes that are pivitol regarding Lawrence Stern’s paintings, the Shell Seekers among those whose importance deserves to be listed as a character in it’s own.

You will travel back in time to when Penelope was a young woman durng WW II, her enlistment in the WRENS and how she met her husband. The times during the war are well written and you are immersed in the scenes of people rationing, happy and grateful for any extra that comes their way, deprivation yet hope and love surround Penelope.

Her children are Nancy, Olivia and Noel. With the exception of Nancy’s introduction at birth, we get to know her children mainly as adults.  Each one is very different. Olivia is genuine and I know you will love her when she is introduced but Nancy and Noel are greedy and fairly unlikable.  You need characters such as this to cause tension and do you ever get it.

I never realized how much food was mentioned in this book until I read a digital copy and used the digital bookmarks.

When Nancy requested a meeting with Olivia to discuss Penelope’s living situation, Olivia took her sister to a fancy restaurant she uses for business lunches. Omelette and salad for Olivia and consommé, escalope of veal with mushrooms for Nancy.

Olivia plans to have a gentleman over dinner. Crusty brown bread, butter, a pot of pate de foie gras; chicken Kiev and salad. Olive oil, fresh peaches, cheeses, a bottle of Scotch, a couple bottles of wine. She bought an armful if daffodils and loaded all this into the boot for her car.

In Ibiza there were many  picnics by the pool.  One day Cosmo took Olivia out on a boat and their picnic that day consisted of bread and tomatoes, slices of salami, fruit and cheese and wine that was sweet and cool from him hanging the bottles in the Mediteranean.

When they hosted a party there were boiled hams, roasted birds, concocted paellas, whipped eggs, stirred sauces, cheeses, breads and tomatoes.

Chelsea buns when Noel was in Knightsbridge.

In the kitchen the air was filled with the scent of roasting sirloin, baking onions and crisping potatoes. Penelope made a pastry, peeled apples, sliced beans and carrots.
Later she would arrange cheeses on a board, grind coffee and decant the thick cream she’d fetched from the village dairy.

Yorkshire puddings, beef, crisp and nutty vegetables, horse radish sauce and rich brown gravy.

A memory of Penelope’s French mother Sophie as we travel back in time during the war.  Sophie made a chicken cassoulet in their Cornwall kitchen.

Lunches shared with Danus: a pot of homemade vegetable soup, half a cold chicken and a crusty loaf of brown bread. Stewed apples and a jug of cream.
Cold baked ham, baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese. For pudding there were jam tarts and baked egg custard.
Fresh fruit salad, Shepherds pie, biscuits and cheese.

The fresh fruit available in England might have been different than what I had on hand, but it’s a refreshing accompaniment to any meal.


Baked trout with almonds, new potatoes, raspberries and cream was the meal served for Noel after cleaning out the attic.

This meal of roast lamb and potatoes, peas and broccoli was just finished before a big blowout between Noel and Nancy.  They certainly showed their true colors and argued over money. I love the way Penelope put them in their place.

Overall I can say I enjoyed this book very much and it was worth rereading.  Family tensions and historical perspective, love and despair….it’s all here.

Sharing with

Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sunday.  Check out her cold cucumber soup.  I brought her a fruit salad.

Marg at The Intrepid Reader and Baker for the Weekend Cooking series

Carole at Carole’s Chatter for the Books you Loved, June edition

Joy at Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday


24 thoughts on “The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

  1. Reading is definitely a way to escape to other times & places, or to feel better, or to pass the time, or many other big advantages. I’m happy for you that you are getting better access to books. I find the electronic highlighting feature of Kindle books to be useful also, as I never write in books even if they are my own.

    be well…. mae at

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mae, I don’t write in books either. For physical books I use a lot of post it notes if I want to keep track of something. I loved this book and its just what I needed.


  2. It’s wonderful that there are books that you re-read for comfort, Once I read a book, I seldom go back. Although I did re-read Gone With The Wind because I initially read it when I was so much younger, I felt like I missed alot and I did and I must say I did enjoy reading it again. I’m not familiar with Coming Home- will have to look into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also enjoyed these books. Love cold roast chicken, really need some good pate, working hard on perfecting a gluten free Yorkshire pudding.
    You mentioned Mad Men to me a few weeks ago and said you didn’t want to give anything away but there was one season when Don Draper is really boring. I am in season 6 and am guessing this is the season you are referring to. He is more than boring he is obnoxious and sexist (more than usual). I identify more with the later seasons set in the late late 60s as I was 17/18 at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Add me to the camp of liking these books! I’m planning on posting my book list on Monday and then just continue to do post my June recommendations throughout the month. We need to be mindful of others and do what we can, but most of us are still reading for enjoyment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m always up for learning something new but I have to say the enjoyment reading is taking the lead right now. Looking forward to your Monday post!


    • Marg, it was surprising how much food was mentioned but Penelope’s character liked feeding people and having dinners with good conversations. I’ll probably make time to read September and Coming Home again. She’s brilliant.


    • Claudia, I didn’t realize there was so much food in that book! Yorkshire pudding is great. Bad for my cholesterol ut you gotta indulge now and then.


    • Deb, I love joining you, I’ve just been a slacker lately. Yes, Pilcher is definitely a comfort read and I like her fat books more than the thin ones. You get so immersed in the setting and characters.


  6. I must have read The Shell Seekers shortly after it was published. Probably in 1989. It remains on my lifetime list of favorite novels and I keep meaning to read it a second time. You have inspired me to do just that! I love Pilcher’s books and still have Coming Home on my TBR shelf. I know! I can’t believe I haven’t read it, but maybe once I reread The Shell Seekers, I’ll feel inspired.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Narrowboat Vlogs #BriFri – Joy's Book Blog

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