Remains to Be Seen - Elizabeth Cadell

Cadell is another one of those writers I used to read all the time, had her on the List and everything, and haven't read in years. I admit I grabbed Remains to be Seen in an eleventh-hour attempt to hit my 2012 Goodreads Challenge goal, because it was a fairly short quick read. (It worked.) It's been long enough that I don't remember if this is a good exemplar of Cadell's work; I kind of hope not.

Not that it's a bad book; I enjoyed it. The synopsis: Philippa Lyle left her tight-knit English community two years ago to visit her father in Canada; not long ago she wrote home that she was looking forward to getting back, and then wrote again to shock everyone by saying she was engaged. Now she's back, largely to say goodbye before she moves permanently to Canada, and her fiancé (Dudley, poor dear) will be along in a few weeks to meet her mother and bring her back, and that will be that. While Philippa was away, her neighborhood has undergone some drastic changes: her old friend, the "boy next door" who also happens to be the local lord, discovered an artifact which – thanks to his hard work – has led to an intensive archaeological dig which is on the verge of growing so large it will displace some of their neighbors.

The friend, Ward, has flung himself into the project, working to bring the village up to a standard to suit all the scientists and tourists the dig is bringing in, raising the quality of available dining and accommodation choices and so on. Before long he has recruited Philippa to assist. And Philippa is a little surprised to find that almost as soon as she re-enters her circle of friends, it's as though she never left – and she begins to realize how very hard it will be to leave again. Indecision begins to set in, with its good friend dread.

Meanwhile, there is a side story about one of Philippa's friends; the family home was left to her by her mother, but now her father is living in it with a nasty new wife and refuses to leave. But Philippa stumbles on a bit of information which may be useful in … convincing step-mama it's a good idea to get out. The whole subplot is handled quietly, by both Philippa and the author; very little is spelled out entirely, which is actually very nice. In addition, there's a third small storyline which starts small only to dominate the end of the book; it was somewhat contrived, but entertaining in a wish-fulfillment sort of way.

Cadell keeps things moving. It's not a terribly long novel – 190 pages in my edition – and quite a bit happens. There's a natural feel to the plot (apart from the contrived bit) and characters, and the dialogue is meant to feel natural as well, I believe; it follows what are probably fairly realistic speech patterns, with people interrupting each other and trailing off in mid-thought and so on. The problem with this is that it's constant. If anyone interrupted me as consistently as these folks do each other on nearly every page, I'd lose my mind. Ellipses are spattered over each page like sprinkles on a cupcake. I'm as fond of ellipses as anyone, but it becomes a wee bit ridiculous.

Characterization is vivid, though more like pastel sketches than detailed portraits; Philippa's friends, her neighbors, her mother, Philippa herself: a flash of physical description, character traits established in broad strokes, background roughed in. It's in keeping with the brisk pace of the book; in the end, the characters could probably be picked out of a lineup, but not out of a crowd.

Actually, that's probably a pretty good description of the book as a whole. Enjoyable enough, and well-written enough, to stand out on a shelf of contemporary romance-leaning novels (it is completely "clean" in terms of sexual content, so I hesitate to call it a romance novel in today's climate), but not necessarily something to stand out in the library as a whole. Not one of Cadell's very best, if I recall others correctly. I hope I do.

Source: http://agoldoffish.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/remains-to-be-seen-elizabeth-cadell