Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys
This is September.
— Hilaire Belloc
Thank goodness for September. That’s when Lady Isobel Balmerino, who oversees an ever-diminishing Scottish estate, happily bids good-bye to the last crop of summer tourists she is forced to welcome into her home — offering food, board and charming talk in exchange for the hard cash that keeps the place going.
“Born and bred in Scotland, she experienced each year this lifting of the spirits as August slipped away, off the calendar, and one could stop pretending that it was summer. Some years, it was true, there came seasons like the old days, when the lawns grew dry from lack of rain and golden evenings were spent watering the roses and sweet peas and rows of young lettuces in the vegetable garden. But too frequently, the months of June, July and August were nothing but a long and soggy endurance test of frustration and disappointment….
“September… was special.”
Although Rosamunde Pilcher’s September (1990, filed in Adult Fiction) begins in May, each month of summer takes up only a few dozen pages. It is September that has pride of place. Relative newcomers to the area plan a September debutante party for their 21-year-old daughter, and invitations are sent around the European continent. The book focuses on the lives of two families, the Balmerinos and the (much better off) Airds, from grannies to little grandchildren to servants, all of them expected to attend the festivities.
September was marketed as a sequel to the best-selling The Shell Seekers, but there’s only one recurring (and minor) character. The tale is included in a larger (1999) tome, Three Complete Novels (the others are Voices In Summer and The Carousel). Pilcher is considered a romance novelist, but September is more of a contemporary family saga filled with interesting characters and small-town detail. (The book was even made into a TV miniseries.)
Here’s another family saga: Maureen Lee’s The September Girls (2005, filed in Adult Fiction). This one begins in 1920s Liverpool, on a cold night when two women give birth – one unhappy but rich, the other happy but poor. The two new mothers detest each other.
Over the years their families become entwined, although the two children, the born-in-September girls, avoid each other as much as possible. This becomes impossible come the dawn of World War II, when the two young women are stationed together.
Lee is known for her attempts at historical accuracy, and there’s lots of period detail here. She’s also known as a popular romance novelist, but again, this book is much more wide ranging.
As the weather changes, these sagas are perfect longer reads for colder fall evenings.
— Eleanor Brown, September 25, 2015