Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book 48 of 2013: The Pumpkin Coach by Susan Sallis

I completely forgot to write my book post this week, so this is a wee bit late. But better late than never!

The Pumpkin Coach by Susan Sallis is a story of two families whose lives are closely linked together with that of a third, all of whom share a connection to an abandoned railway coach. The railway coach in question was purchased by a man and towed to a secluded spot for conducting an affair with his young mistress, a woman who went on to have a child illegitimately.

The story mostly follows the life of a young girl, Alice, in the 1940s who has decided to leave school and go to work for the railways like her father. Meanwhile, her best friend Hester has stayed on at school and intends to go away to university like her brother. It's a bit of a slow-burn tale set over the following years and looking at the way these families interact with each other, as well as the role that the illegitimate child and the pumpkin coach play in the story.

This really isn't the sort of book that I would usually pick to read myself. As it was I didn't pick it myself. I was being admitted to hospital and I sent Mr Click home to get me clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste and the ever essential reading material (because despite taking my time to read Watership Down I was pretty certain that it wouldn't last me more than a day in hospital). He panicked about which book he should chose for me, so got one from his mum instead. My Mum-in-Law and I have very different tastes in reading material, but when she recommends a book to me I inevitably enjoy it.

Knowing my Mum-in-Law's usual choice of books I was expecting something that would be heavy on the romance, but this really wasn't. I quite liked the way that the romance was fairly gentle and easy-going, as well as the way that it gradually drifted through time.

Despite the title being The Pumpkin Coach, I didn't really feel like the coach actually played that big a role in the story. Yeah, it was a place that almost all of the characters visited, and yeah it linked to the railway where many of the characters worked, but it could just as easily have been call Alice Pettiford or Lypiatt Bottom. The title kind of gave me an expectation that it was going to play a bigger and more obvious role and that never really happened.

I really liked the character of Alice but I wasn't really interested in Joe and Louise. Joe kind of had to stay in the story to maintain one of the links to the Pumpkin Coach, but once his involvement with Alice had ended he served little point. I didn't really like him and didn't care to hear what he was doing when I would rather be reading about Alice.

Considering when and why I was in hospital it probably wasn't the best thing to read because it annoyed me just how easily everyone was getting pregnant. Seriously, Alice had sex for the first time and worried about whether or not she was pregnant, slept with a guy the second time and gets pregnant. Ditto several other characters! I kind of guessed the outcome to Alice's pregnancy and marriage, but it was that sort of book. You didn't mind the predictability because it was a nice easy story. If I'm ever looking for an easy, not-too-taxing sort of story, I'll definitely look out another Susan Sallis from my Mum-in-Law's bookcase.

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