Picks and Pans Review: Winter Solstice

updated 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Rosamunde Pilcher

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year; the sun is at its most distant, and all seems dark and dreary. It is an apt metaphor for the lives of the five central characters in the latest effort from Pilcher (Coming Home).

At 62, Elfrida Phipps, an endearingly eccentric retired actress, is still mourning the death of the love of her life. Her friend Oscar Blundell, 67, is nearly consumed by his own grief. And they are quickly joined by Elfrida's cousin Carrie, 30, nursing the wounds of a failed romance; Carrie's niece Lucy, 14, whose mother is too busy to worry about her daughter; and Sam Howard, whose wife just left him.

Pilcher spins their stories slowly, gradually uniting the lost souls in a dilapidated estate house in Scotland where they spend Christmas and help each other back to life. With its tender prose and evocative descriptions of the bitter but beautiful Scottish countryside, Solstice becomes an occasion to celebrate as well. (St. Martin's, $27.95)

Bottom Line: Winter's tale makes a fine summer read

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