“The Sea House” is a tale that spans the centuries as it transitions between the modern story of Ruth and her husband Michael and letters from the vicar and his housekeeper who lived in the same house in 1860. It is not a particularly happy story most of the time. Ruth struggles with fear and bouts of panic as an adult as a result of traumatic experiences during her childhood. Alexander and Moira’s letters reveal horrific treatment of early island residents by the wealthy landowners.
A common thread woven through the entire book is Scottish lore, particularly the legend of the Skelkies, long believed to be part human and part seal. Both Alexander and Ruth had been told that they were descended from Skelkies. A disturbing discovery during the reconstruction of Ruth and Michael’s home tends to lend some credence to the tales. I was fascinated by the legends and found the eventual explanation found by Alexander to make perfect sense.
The plot moved along fairly slowly but was actually a good pace for a book of this sort. The characters were well developed and were not static. Although Ruth had her problems, she was finally able to accept her past and move on with her life.
I enjoyed “The Sea House” and found it quite interesting, however it is not a book for everyone. If you are easily offended by certain language, there is one paragraph that could be offensive. There was only the one incident and in my opinion the use of the word was just indicative of how out of control Ruth felt at that moment. I personally do not care for that word but cannot see discounting the entire book because of one or two sentences. I would have missed a very good tale if I had. I will be passing on my copy to a friend who I know will also enjoy it.
This book was provided for review by LitFuse Publicity.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naive 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. 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, 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 grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She is the author of “The House of Hope: A Story of God’s Love and Provision for the Abandoned Orphans of China” and 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. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.
Don’t miss The Sea House, a stunning fiction debut from the UK. Set in a house on the windswept coast of the Outer Hebrides, Elisabeth Gifford‘s haunting tale effortlessly bridges a gap of more than a century. Adeptly interweaving two tales involving residents of the titular house, Gifford sets up an absorbing mystery revolving around local lore and myths about mermaids, selkies, and sealmen. Stretching seamlessly back and forth through time, layers upon layers of secrets are slowly and effectively peeled away in this evocative debut (Booklist).
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