September by Rosamunde Pilcher

Fallen brown leaves cover dustjacket of “September”Rosamunde Pilcher’s September is a restful novel, full of hardworking, neighborly, nice people who, though they occasionally do things you might not approve of, are nonetheless people you’d be glad to know.

The story focuses on two families in the Scots Highlands: the Balmerinos and the Airds. The Balmerino family has a title, land, and no money.  Lord and Lady Balmerino— Archie and Isobel—take in American tourists to make ends meet.

The Airds family has money. Edmund is an executive. Virginia, more than 20 years younger, is his second wife. He has an adult daughter by his late wife, and an 8-year-old son by Virginia.

Edmund and Archie were best friends for years, but a coolness developed between them shortly before Edmund’s wife’s death.

A newcomer triggers events that resolve that coolness when she organizes a big dance for her daughter’s 21st birthday, and gets everyone in the community involved.

The story’s ending is a tad too neatly predictable, but Pilchers’s characterizations, especially in the early chapters, are beautifully sketched. Even minor characters, like the local drunk and the Pakistani couple who run the village market, feel recognizable from her descriptions.

September requires attentive reading, which it richly, calmly, lovingly, repays.

September by Rosamunde Pilcher
St. Martin’s Press. ©1990. 536 p.
1990 bestseller #10; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Storm Warning: heroism where none’s expected

Storm Warning is an implausible and irresistible tale of heroism in unlikely places.

A tattered Nazi flag rises above the words Storm Warning
This flag tops a 3-masted sailing ship, badly battered.

Novelist Jack Higgins weaves together several stories, each worthy of a novel on its own.

The book opens in  Brazil in August, 1944, as Captain Berger’s three-masted German sailing ship, disguised as a Swedish vessel, sets sail for Germany 5,000 miles away.

On board is a crew of 22 men and seven passengers, five of them nuns.

If his wooden vessel survives Atlantic storms, Captain Berger will have to sail along Scotland’s treacherous western coast which, as WWII winds down, is dominated by American and British ships and planes.

In London, American doctor Janet Munro has leave from patching up air raid victims to visit her severely wounded uncle, Rear Admiral Carey Reeve on Fhada Island off Scotland.

Crossing Scotland, Janet and her Navy escort Harry Jago cross paths with Paul Gericke, who had just pulled off a U-Boat attack on Falmouth.

All the characters converge on Fhada Island just as the storm of the century whips up.

Higgins presents a rousing adventure story supported by precisely-drawn characters captured in vivid verbal snapshots.

The story has too many coincidences to withstand scrutiny, but while you are reading, Higgins will make you believe every word.

Storm Warning by Jack Higgins
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, 311 p.
1976 bestseller #4. My grade: A-