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Winter Solstice - Second Chances at Love. A Review

Updated on September 26, 2014
Second Chances - Young at heart and in love
Second Chances - Young at heart and in love | Source

A Love Story

I have just finished a most heart-warming love story, one about second chances at life, one of those books I have reread several times over the years. Each time I read it, it is new again and takes me into the lives of many enchanting people with whom I would love to have been friends. This is an evergreen story of a couple in the autumn of their lives, risking second chances at love.

Elfrida

Elfrida, a sixty-something one-time not-very-famous London actress, flees to a little country town, Dibton, as soon as she is pensionable, looking for a second chance at life on her own terms. She buys a tiny cottage with her life savings and rescues a dog, Horace, from the pound. Making the occasional high-end cushions for a London decorator keeps her in pocket money.

Oscar.

Little country towns are known for adopting stray immigrants, and Elfrida is pulled into the family of Oscar, the church organist, his rich wife, Gloria and their eight year old child, Francesca. Oscar was a bit past middle age when Gloria proposed to him after her husband's death, and Francesca was a delightful surprise to him when she was born. Gloria, with two grown sons, is blasé about her daughter. They moved to Dibton when she was a small child so she could keep her animals. This is the family Elfrida grows very fond of.










Jeffrey

Elfrida has a cousin,Jeffrey, in Cornwall, with a young wife and two little children. He has left his pretty, prim, self-centered, materialistic wife and a lucrative investment job in London to live in genteel poverty and contentment with his new family. After waiting for his first lot of children to grow up, Jeffrey now has a second chance at love and happiness. Elfrida visits them and stays for a month. To Jeffrey, she was always the glamorous older cousin who used to visit him in boarding school and take him out for treats, and he has always adored her.

Tragedy

While Elfrida is away, Oscar suffers a devastating loss. Gloria, a known tippler without actually being a drunk, is driving Francesca home from a Guy Fawkes night fireworks party. It is a stormy night, and at a roundabout, she goes the wrong way, straight into an articulated truck. Oscar has retreated into himself, and has turned away from a cruel God. He has spurned the music he had loved all his life. When Elfrida turns up, he accepts her presence, but is in a deep depression.

The Scottish House
The Scottish House | Source
Wild North of Scotland
Wild North of Scotland | Source

The Scottish House

Oscar soon has to leave the house, as Gloria's sons want to sell it. Not foreseeing her own early demise, Gloria has made no provision for Oscar, and he has no plans to retire to an old folks' home. But many years before, his grandmother had left a large house in the north of Scotland to Oscar and his cousin, with whom he has had no contact since. Now the caretakers have recently retired, so the house is empty. The house is called Coreydale, near the town of Creagan..

Elfrida persuades Oscar to move to this Scottish house and with her promise to make the trip with him, he goes. There in the wild north, is a close country community and Elfrida soon makes friends. Oscar keeps to himself, shunning friendly overtures from the town's pastor and his young family. Oscar keeps having nightmares that wake him up crying and desolate.

Carrie and Lucy, the Lost Lambs

Into this scenario comes Carrie, Jeffrey's daughter, who has left a glamorous ski job in Austria after her affair with a married banker ends. She is home in London. When she visits her mother and sister, she sees her very unwanted, unhappy niece, fourteen year old Lucy. It is nearly Christmas, and nobody wants her around, not her grandmother nor her mother nor her father with his new wife. Each one has an excuse. Carrie at once takes charge of Lucy.

Carrie tracks down Elfrida through her father, and persuades Elfrida to ask her and Lucy for Christmas. Elfrida, delighted, tells Oscar, and they fly up, Lucy with a beautiful new wardrobe given her by her mother and Carrie. Oscar puts Elfrida at her ease as to how he would feel about having Lucy, a girl so close to his own daughter's age. In fact he and Lucy become fast friends. .

Young Love

Lucy is soon drawn into the family life of the pastor, and becomes very fond of the eighteen year old son, Rory .

All Snowed In

Weather Report.
Weather Report. | Source

Sam

In the meantime, Sam Howard comes to Creagan, looking to maybe buy the house Oscar partly owns. He has met Oscar's cousin by chance in London and intimated that he is looking to move up north for his job and needs a house. True to character, cousin Hughie forgot to mention Oscar and Sam presumes Hughie owns the house. Sam is newly divorced from his American wife.

A couple of days from Christmas Eve, with a snowstorm that threatens to intensify, he arrives at the house and rings the bell when Carrie is home alone with a cold.The others have gone to the pastor's for a Christmas party. From a stiff first meeting, she thaws and makes him stay on when there is a forecast of a blistering snowstorm. The house, she muses, seems to attract lost waifs.

The Christmas Story Cast

The bundle of people thrown together days before Christmas gets along very well. Together and separately they plan for a big party, shopping, cleaning and polishing and cooking. Carrie is still haunted by her failed love affair. Oscar is recovering bit by bit, through the magic of the glorious season. His nightmares have receded and he wakes up one morning with a smile and a warm glow from dreaming about Francesca. He goes one day into the Church that he has never stepped foot into before. Lucy is blooming among all these people she loves. Elfrida keeps a motherly eye on them all and has confided to Carrie that she and Oscar have been a couple for a while, starting when she first went in to comfort him when he had had a nightmare.

Sam has managed to crack through Carrie's reserve and unhappiness and there is a growing understanding between them.

Christmas Eve, the pastor makes a hasty phone call to Oscar, who relays the message that the organist has become ill and they will only have piped music for the Christmas service. All are aghast.

Giving Praise

The Organist - Giving Praise
The Organist - Giving Praise | Source

Second Chances

Christmas morning, Oscar disappears before everybody leaves for Church. When they enter, they are assailed by the powerful strains of 'Ode to Joy', with its promise of hope and renewal, and they know Oscar has come home.

They have a wonderful, joyous Christmas party with all their friends. This group of disparate people who found refuge in the big old house which wove its powerful love spells, are now a close family. Oscar agrees to sell his share of the house to Sam, who is waiting for Carrie to accept his love.

Love is Wonderful, the Second Time Around.

Oscar and Elfrida take over a smaller house nearby and plan to renovate it to have room for Lucy, whom they are planning to keep in Scotland for her schooling. Her mother approves wholeheartedly. Lucy is ecstatic, for she will be near Rory, though he is planning to go to the Himalayas for his Gap Year. Oscar has asked Elfrida to marry him, for how would it look to other people if they had a child live with them without their being married?

This is such a satisfying story. If you want to read it yourself, it's called 'Winter Solstice', by Rosamunde Pilcher, a celebrated novelist and short story writer who lives in Perthshire, Scotland. I could wish to have written such a love story myself.

Older people are just as capable of falling in love as younger ones, and with the wisdom and patience born of living, are more likely to make their love work. When your second chance comes around, grab it with both hands and have faith, believe in the power and magic of love.

The Second Time Around

An autumn love
An autumn love | Source

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    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

      Hi, Graham, sorry, I thought I'd replied to you. Hope you're anticipating Christmas with a joyful heart.

      No, the future is a mystery. When it comes around, we should be ready for it.

      Thanks for the vote and the follow. Here's wishing you and yours a peaceful, blessed Christmas.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi mizjo. This is a lovely heartwarming story, you paced it so well. We never know what the future holds for us do we? Perhaps that's for the best.

      voted up and all / following.

      Graham.

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      Thank you, Henry VIII, and you're most welcome. I'm happy you enjoyed it. It's one of my old favorites.

    • profile image

      Henry VIII 5 years ago

      Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      "...yet allowing its residence[sic] decide and choose...". Some of the residents have professions in common, hence they see one another on a more frequent basis, and they enjoy doing things or organizing social events. Owners of dogs go for walks and stop along the way to share stories; those keen on gardening exchange plants, fruit or vegetables. Quite a 'hub' of activities, really.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      Sorry, I missed your earlier question about my village. We have a community police who patrols the area - on a bicycle! There is also a neighbourhood watch for which members pay a nominal fee, and get regular update on any scam, theft, other community concerns. People are in unison about keeping the area safe, yet allowing its residence to decide and choose who they would communicate on a more regular basis, or keep on amicable terms. What do people think of this level of interaction?

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      The battery was okay, though there was only one call left to make that SOS call! My mobile is not under contract, so I top up when credit runs out.

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      I haven't seen a mobile phone with face-to-face capability, but I could be behind the times. Even without that feature though, it's a great invention and it must have saved many people in dangerous situations when that was the only mode of communication. Just for that reason alone, you should never let the battery run out.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      Isn't the mobile (cell)phone also being used for face-to-face on the screen conversation, or is it my imagination? Have to catch up on using my mobile more, not just to send and receive messages. Thanks to my mobile phone, I was able to text a message to get someone to contact a nearby friend to let me out, when I accidentally shut myself in by mistake. I would have had to spend a rather cold evening and night, before trying to make a racket and getting my neighbour to notice my plight. Even then, I wasn't sure it would have worked. Phew!

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      No, you can't beat the satisfaction of physical, face-to-face contact. With relatives and friends scattered to the four winds, that isn't so easy any more, unlike when we were young.

      Still, with the ease of digital communications, we can keep in touch. And with the cheap or free use of Skype, chat till the cows come home. Facebook has helped find old schoolfriends and childhood neighbours. Yes, that is wonderful.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      Thank you, Mizjo, for your nice comment.

      Though I don't want to say so, technology has provided a means to keep in touch with people near and far. Isolation has been made less bearable. Especially where family members live at different ends of the world. Social networking on Facebook and telephone conversation via Skype have helped many people find friends, after decades of lost contact. Isn't it wonderful?

      Having said that, nothing can replace the personal side of relationships, that is, to be able to see, touch, speak and listen to a human being; or mingling at a social gathering or event.

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      You put it so succinctly. I loved all the characters. Each one is so loving and ready to give and receive love.

      Is that village anything like your one?

      I have read 2 other of her many memorable books and each one has left me very deeply affected.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      As I get to know more about Rosamund Pilcher, the more she grows on me. She was born in a Cornish village in England, and served in the Women's Royal Navy Service (WREN) during World War II. After the war, she married and moved to Scotland, where she now lives as a widow. Against this backdrop, she has first-hand experience of life's tragedies and upheavals during very traumatic times, to write about the emotions or relationships experienced by the different characters in her book, "Winter Solstice".

      Her characters are having to cope with personal issues, such as Oscar with depression over the loss of his dear ones; Carrie and her heartache over a failed marital affair. Most notably, they experience loneliness; yet there comes hope, new love or companionship - through the coming together of her characters in a small northern Scottish village at Christmas, where community spirit prevails and its inhabitants look out for one another. Elfrida may be chronologically ageing, but she is still young at heart and gets excited about being attracted to Oscar.

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      Clever, isn't it,how the intertwined stories of the many characters enrich the central story. Two lonely people become a family with diverse loving people, each one lost and finding a roost in the house. You should read Rosamund Pilcher's other wonderful books.I'm sure Amazon has them, or any library.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      The relationships in the story are multi-faceted. It challenges the reader to keep track of the varying levels of progress, in terms of the friendship or love between the different characters concerned. Nonetheless, Oscar and Elfrida remain the central figures throughout story. What would or could have been just a two person theme has been cleverly enriched by the extended relationships that surrounded them, be it directly or indirectly.

      Not to mention that reading it has helped to stretch and keep active the part of me that seems to be lacking more and more grey matter - my 'foggy' brain. :)

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      Thank you. I have read it so many times, and love it each time. I'm just a cotton-wool softie.

    • moretea3 profile image

      moretea3 5 years ago

      Touching story, indeed.

    • mizjo profile image
      Author

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      Thank you, Maria. Glad you liked it. I had fun writing it. If your friends like it too, get them to comment. Your comments are hubbers' premium gas!

    • profile image

      Maria Zulueta 5 years ago

      What a lovely story. I shall pass it round .Thank you.