The Pumpkin Shell
by Louise Pakeman
Rural England from 1933
Stephanie Benson's sheltered, comfortable life with her beloved father is shattered on the night of her twenty-first birthday. Stunned but barely bruised by the accident that kills her father, Stevie receives another blow when she learns her father died a bankrupt. It's no wonder, then, that she accepts the proposal of Martin Colville, her father's friend and attorney. The man she used to call "Uncle Martin" is fit, handsome and a generous lover. Though Stevie has little to fill her days, their marriage is a happy one. But then Tom Jefferies, her childhood hero, returns from Australia and moves in to help with the horses. Stevie and Tom experience such an overwhelming attraction they know they must be together, but before she can ask for a divorce, she learns she is carrying Martin's child.
THE PUMPKIN SHELL covers about fifteen years in the life of one woman. There are births and deaths and loves lost and found; World War II looms, and then passes into history. At first meeting, I didn't care much for Stevie. She seemed immature and self-centered and altogether too passive. But when I thought about it and realized how much her life and growth reflected the evolution of the role of women in the early to mid twentieth century, and that her life style was fairly typical of her class in England in those days, her story became oddly fascinating.
Though told from the third person point of view, the reader as observer sees only what happens in Stevie's presence, and hers are the only thoughts we are directly privy to. The development of the other characters takes place through their interactions with her. It's a credit to the author's ability to suggest with a few strokes that we get a pretty good sense of most of them. Two people stand out, though, as ones I would really like to know much better: Stevie's daughter Sue, and her artist friend David.
While not like the emotional and passionate romances you'll find most often reviewed in these pages, THE PUMPKIN SHELL has its own charms. It's intelligently written and well edited. As I came to know Stevie and watched her mature, I was very glad to have met her. I believe you would be, too.