I was given this novel as a recommendation, and I'm so glad I was! It is the most enchanting, beautiful novel I've read for awhile. Wonderfully written, it tells the story of Helena Mayrick close to the present day, trying to overcome tragedy and embarking reluctantly at first on writing a book about her relation Donaldson, who was a famous photographer, and of her Grandmother Ruth Styles in the early part of the twentieth century, with a chapter alternately set in the present and then the past throughout the book.
Ruth Styles is the lynchpin to the whole novel and the most intriguing and devastating character, to whom all else somehow relates. She grows up by the sea in Suffolk, in a small village, and it is this place which shapes much of the lives of those involved. Young Ruth is intelligent, bright, and sparky, and has a profound and lasting effect on many around her, most noteably on Donaldson, the photographer who comes to Westwich and so begins his lifelong fascination with Ruth. As a reader, I was intensely curious and compelled to read on and find out what would happen to her, and so much does!
There is a marvelous sense of place within the novel, and it is clear the bearing the proximity of the sea has on several of the characters. The book is about the repercussions of the past; about love, forbidden love, lost love, unfulfilled love; it is about the draw of a particular landscape and how it can free or restrict a person, and it is about choices and fulfillment of potential, especially for women, which is a key theme of this author.