CBR Bingo: White Whale
When I was a kid, our house had a hallway that ran between the living room and my parents’ bedroom. It was wider than a normal hallway, and lined with bookshelves that were filled with both books and pictures. One of my chores as a child was to dust this room. The Shell Seekers, in all its 80s floral and embossed glory, was one of the books that was kept in this room, and one I always remember seeing it as I was dusting, but I never opened it or read the inside cover. When I was little I thought the title was so odd, and the cover so ugly, but I always remembered it.
All these years later, when I saw the White Whale category on this year’s Bingo, I immediately thought of The Shell Seekers and requested it from the library. I’m so glad I did! What a lovely book.
It’s one of those books that is hard to describe the plot. It’s about Penelope Keeling, who grew up in Cornwall in the early 1900s, the daughter of a famous artist (who painted the titular Shell Seekers). When the book opens, Penelope is 64 and recovering from a heart attack. Her father’s works are getting renewed attention from the art world, and two of her children are pressuring her to sell the paintings she owns, including The Shell Seekers.
The book moves back and forth through time, as each chapter highlights someone important in Penelope’s life. It’s beautifully written, with richly drawn characters and evocative descriptions. It’s also so moving. This is one of those books I could see myself reading over and over throughout my life, and identifying with different characters each time. I’ll be buying a copy of this book–but I’m going to try to find a copy with a better looking cover.