“September” is a novel set in Scotland about several characters who are invited to a dance party for a young lady turning twenty-one. Katy Steynton, the honoree, plays a very minor role in the novel (in fact the reader hardly meets her until close to the end of the book). However there are several characters invited to the dance who come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, and who make choices that affect not only themselves but their loved ones.
Edmund and Virginia Aird must decide whether sending their young son Henri to boarding school is a tradition they want to keep. This decision has made inroads in their marriage and their struggles are painful and exasperating. Edmund’s daughter Alexa has found a boyfriend (who finds it all too easy to simply move in with her and no one, including her parents, seem to find this sudden disclosure at all unsettling). Noel, who happens to be Penelope Keeling’s son (remember the self-absorbed Noel from “The Shell Seekers”?), has to decide whether he is ready for a permanent relationship. Archie Balmorino is haunted with memories from his military service in Ireland and a prosthetic leg that gives him daily reminders, as if his nightmares were not enough. And there is Archie’s provocative, disturbing sister Pandora who has not been home for twenty or more years, who now impetuously decides that it is time to return to her childhood home and sad past.
I doubt there are very many who are not familiar with Rosamunde Pilcher. I have read and enjoyed several of her books over the years. “September” is a book I chose to fulfill part of my “Read Scotland” reading for this year.
I read Pilcher for the comfort of reading about cosy home atmospheres (I loved the character of Penelope Keeling in her “Shell Seekers” book), gardens, food, and everyday life in Scotland. However, like many other reviewers, I wish her characters were portrayed with more of a moral foundation and not so overtly promiscuous, or so ready to discard fidelity to their marriage vows.
I didn’t really ‘connect’ with any of the characters in this one, but I did appreciate Violet Aird (Edmund’s mother), although at one point I wanted to yell at her “stop hesitating and tell Virginia to grow up!!!” Although I enjoy my share of various genres (mysteries and trying to solve them before the author does it for me. Non-fiction just for the pleasure of learning something new. Historical novels to immerse myself in another time period), I like to once in a while, read ‘escapist’ fiction; light, cosy, fireside books that I can lose myself in for just a few hours. When I finished reading “September”, instead of the ‘light and cosy’ read I had expected, I found tragic lessons to be learned (the guilt incurred with adultery; hypocrisy; choices and their consequences; courage versus despair). I also regretted some of the situations the author chose to include (although I recognize that many would argue ‘but this is real life!’ For me, this is the tragedy because ‘real life’ often occurs as a result or consequence of personal choice.) However I also realized that rather than ‘escapist’ fiction, this novel does point out the complexity of human existence and the flawed choices we all tend to make.
This is not a book of ‘hopeful endings’ but rather an expose of life in one small community in one period of time and learning to cope with the repercussions of interpersonal relationships. Although I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I had hoped, it does have value in giving the reader (at least, it did so for me), a desire for living life with integrity and dogged perseverance to meet with determination and fortitude whatever life brings.