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Secrets of the Sea House Kindle Edition
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***Shortlisted For Historical Writers' Association's Debut Crown For Best First Historical Novel***
Scotland, 1860. Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naïve and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs.
It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. But their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together - a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? Ruth needs to solve the mystery of her new home - but the answers to her questions may lie in her own past.
Based on a real nineteenth-century letter to The Times in which a Scottish clergyman claimed to have seen a mermaid, Secrets of the Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love, hope and redemption, and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.
About the Author
ELISABETH GIFFORD has written articles for The Times and The Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. The Sea House is her debut novel. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames, a suburb of London, but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
Gifford moves nimbly between the centuries and voices of her intriguing tale. She is a singular and poetic writer --Rhidian Brook, author of THE AFTERMATH
Sure to ignite an interest in sea mythology partnered with real-life ground-breaking sightings and discoveries, this is the perfect read if you're heading to a British beach this summer --Red Magazine
Fans of historical fiction, folklore and Scotland will all enjoy this wonderful debut; Gifford is a writer to watch --We Love This Book
A sweeping summer read, packed with an epic tale of loss, love and hope --Irish News
This is a book that you'll remember, long after the last page has been turned --Daily Express
Anything this good deserves the largest readership possible and we readers deserve to be treated to novels like this from time to time too; symbiosis in action. --Bookbag
Gifford moves nimbly between the centuries and voices of her intriguing tale. She is a singular and poetic writer. --Rhidian Brook, author of THE AFTERMATH --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00CW0JLWY
- Publisher : Corvus; Main edition (1 Aug. 2013)
- Language : English
- File size : 3192 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 320 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 54,398 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer reviews:
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In the present day, Ruth and Michael have bought an old Vicarage with the intention of completely renovating it. They have overreached themselves financially, and it doesn't help that the skeleton of a child has just been found beneath one of the rooms, creating a hold up while the police investigate. Distracted from her work, Ruth sets about investigating the history of those who had lived in the house before them, particularly a Victorian clergyman who appeared to be completely obsessed with selkies.
The story is told from three points of view: Ruth, the Rev Alexander Ferguson, and Moira his maid. Ruth is not immediately likeable, but that's due to her past history. I found Alexander's narrative a bit hard going at first, as I've never been keen on stories written in that old style of English, even if it is historically accurate. Moira's story seemed a little bit repetitive, but in the end she became my favourite character.
So at first this story was heading for a solid four stars, but then I became swept up with the characters and their lives, particularly the Victorian timeline and Alexander's tales of mermaids and selkies. I'm English, so I don't know much about Scottish myths and legends, but I found this aspect of the story particularly fascinating. I also enjoyed Alexander's journey from a kind-hearted, slightly naive vicar to - ah, well that would be a spoiler!
Anyway, this one is definitely going on my list of favourite reads and I've already downloaded another book by the same author. Recommended!
For me, there was a strange, nebulous quality about the whole thing, as if looking through misted glass. There were holes in the plot, and many characters lacked clarity. A pity. I love the Hebrides and the selkie mythology, but this book's shortcomings prevented me from really engaging with it.
Often I find that a novel with dual-time narratives, set a long time apart, suffers because one story - typically, the older one - is much more compelling than the other. But this is not the case here.
The contemporary story is about Ruth, a young mother-to-be who is burdenned by the apparent suicide of her mother and by shadowy memories of the children’s home she was brought up in. A strange baby corpse is found buried beneath Ruth and her gentle husband’s house in Harris, which begins to prey on Ruth’s fragile mind. But this is not a horror story. It is about excavating the literal and psychological past in order to free the present.
I loved the cleverly linked nineteenth century narrative about a good but hopelessly naive clergyman and the two young women who fall in love with him on rugged and remote Harris. There are brilliant short passages about the hardship of crofting life and fascinating, practical insights, as when the prospective visit of the laird’s daughter fills the poor servant girl Moira with consternation, worrying about ‘Maggie Kintail’s chickens, which like to live under the bench near the fire ... not to mention the ram that ... still tries to get in through the back door.’
Disappointingly, after the opening chapters, the rugged, stark landscape of Harris features only a few times.
What can I say, within the first few pages I was left completely cold. The prose was perfunctory, it felt laboured, as though the author struggled with every word. In short, it read like an instruction manual, functional, simplistic and just, cold.
Try as I might, I couldn’t make it much beyond the first 3 chapters. The characters just seemed flat and 2 dimensional.
Anyone hoping, as I was, for a flowery historical time slip in the vein of Kate Morton, or the successor to the suspicions of mr whicher, will likely be disappointed.
It is a well written book and I enjoyed the descriptive passages, but the only characters I cared about played a fairly minor part in the book, those who were affected by the clearances.
As I went on through the book the mystery and the mythology were explained away and the whole book took on a different meaning based much more on reality which was a bit disappointing.
It did have a conclusive ending, I do hate books that have open endings, but I did feel the ending was overlong and drawn out.