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The Sea Change [Paperback]

Joanna Rossiter
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

9 May 2013

A Richard and Judy Summer 2013 Book Club pick.

The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter is a haunting and moving novel about a mother and a daughter, caught between a tsunami and a war.

Yesterday was Alice's wedding day. She is thousands of miles away from the home she is so desperate to leave, on the southernmost tip of India, when she wakes in the morning to see a wave on the horizon, taller than the height of her guest house on Kanyakumari beach. Her husband is nowhere to be seen.

On the other side of the world, unhappily estranged from her daughter, is Alice's mother, Violet. Forced to leave the idyllic Wiltshire village, Imber, in which she grew up after it was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War, Violet is haunted by the shadow of the man she loved and the wilderness of a home that lies in ruins.

As Alice searches for her husband in the debris of the wave she is forced to face up to some truths about herself she has been hiding from. Meanwhile Violet is compelled to return to Imber to discover just why she abandoned her great love . . .

'A great theme: impermanence, and the sweeping away of everything we believed was certain. Joanna Rossiter really shines with lovely, fluid, restrained writing. This is such a moving story ' Helen Dunmore

Joanna Rossiter grew up in Dorset and studied English at Cambridge University before working as a researcher in the House of Commons and as a copy writer. In 2011 she completed an MA in Writing at Warwick University. The Sea Change is her first novel. She lives and writes in London.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241964156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241964156
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Joanna Rossiter really shines with lovely, fluid, restrained writing. This is such a moving story (Helen Dunmore)

About the Author

Joanna Rossiter grew up in Dorset and studied English at Cambridge University before working as a researcher in the House of Commons and as a copy writer. In 2011 she completed an MA in Writing at Warwick University. The Sea Change is her first novel. She lives and writes in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful debut novel 16 May 2013
`The Sea Change' finds Joanna Rossiter spins her story around a mother and daughter, both caught up in life changing events - real, historical events - that are very different and yet have similar consequences. She does it so very well that I can scarcely believe it is her debut. But it is.

In 1971 Alice was travelling across Asia to India with her new boyfriend. When they reached India they married, but the very next day they were separated by a tsunami. As Alice desperately searched for James she had she thought about their past, their relationship, their journey. And she thought about her mother. Her instinct was to turn to her mother, Violet, but they had parted on bad terms.

In 1943 Violet's home, and the whole Wiltshire village of Imber, was requisitioned by the army. She had never returned but she had never forgotten her home and the people who were lost to her now: her sensitive, caring father; her practical mother; her spirited sister, Freda; and Pete, the troubled young man she had been drawn to. They were all lost to her now.

The same themes - home, love, loss, misunderstanding - are threaded through both strands of the story.

Joanna Rossiter writes quite beautifully, in fluid, graceful prose, and she illuminates characters, places, relationships, in all of their complexity, so very well. And she writes with such intelligence and understanding, leaving space for her readers to wonder, to interpret, to think, to react.

I was completely caught up, though I was torn between wanting to rush forward with the story and wanting to linger to appreciate so much that was wonderful.

The movement between 1940s England and 1970s India felt quite natural, and the two places were brought together by recurring themes and images.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
In her debut novel, The Sea Change, Joanna Rossiter writes about a peculiar kind of grief. I do not know the name of it. I wish I did.

Her book, you see, is about lost landscapes. She bases her story on two real events: the appropriation of Imber, a Wiltshire village, by the War Office in 1943; and a coastal community in India crushed by tsunami in 1971.

In each case there is destruction, the residents are displaced, their homes are robbed and the familiar environment scarred and garrotted. War and wave bring death to families caught up in them - and yet there are survivors too, left to mourn, recover and possibly to rebuild.

Rossiter gives us one family touched by both incidents. In 1971 (`the present'), Alice is travelling overland through the Middle East to India with her spur-of-the-moment husband, having left her mother, Violet, in England on bad terms.

Meanwhile, her mother's Imber upbringing forms the other portion of the story three decades earlier. She is the daughter of a parson, and Pete is the object of her teenage infatuation.

When catastrophe comes, personal loyalties are tested: the roots to the past that hold you back; the excitement and appeal of new experiences pulling you forward.

Violet's love for Pete is intriguing. He is a wanderer without sentiment for any specific location, whereas Vi harbours a deep desire to `go home', though war games have rendered Imber unrecognisable.

Her relationship with her daughter is equally complex. Alice's adventuring hurts Violet, is intended to spite her, perhaps. The strings of affection tug, knot and unravel.

Rossiter has a gift for bringing geography to life, her descriptive passages are some of the loveliest and most effective I can recall reading.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Absorbing 10 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Around 70 pages into The Sea Change, I nearly missed my stop on the train journey to work. One minute I was huddled in the rain with Violet and Annie, cold, wet, muddy and heartbroken, and the next the word `Blackheath' reached across the decades and I found myself plonked unceremoniously back in the present day, scrabbling my belongings together and hurrying off the train.

It's a rare book that can absorb me so completely on such a short train ride that I really do forget where I am. Joanna Rossiter's rich, compelling story, and her intriguing word-choices, her wonderful sense of place and her complex - and often frustrating - characters creep up on you like, well, like the tidal wave she describes. Then, like the wave, they swamp you, taking you captive, and leaving their mark long after you've closed the cover for the last time.

I spent much of the book wanting to bash the main characters' heads together. True to their time, they held so much inside, when actually talking to each other could have solved so many problems, and eased the grief that they carried like a second skin, seething and groaning beneath the surface of their quiet, dutiful lives.

But that is a criticism of the time, not of the book. Their reticence is a significant part of what compels you to keep reading - every snippet they give away is a tasty morsel, awakening your appetite for more.

This is an excellent, and really accomplished debut novel and I can't wait to read more from Joanna, or to visit the places I already feel I know so well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing backdrop
Very engaging and story flows easily against is difficult social history, bought to life by the lives of mothers and daughters from this family.
Published 2 days ago by Max
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Good read and thought provoking.
Published 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written original story
Two stories that are set a generation apart, they are linked by the relationship between the mother and daughter

The first story is set in the village of Imber in... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Half Man, Half Book
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story
Lovely book that had me gripped from the very start. I fell in love with the characters and their stories.
Published 1 month ago by Kate
2.0 out of 5 stars Too flowery for me
What kind of a cover picture is that?
This book took its time to get going so I abandoned it. Felt a bit guilty but not enough to continue reading it.
Published 3 months ago by Charlotte Nightingale
3.0 out of 5 stars Tsunami - An earlier phenonemum
I was only aware of the devastating tsunami of 2003 and was surprised to read of another event some 30 years earlier, why had this not registered with me. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs S Gaskin
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbingly evocative - a gripping story...
This is a brilliant first book, original and totally absorbing and yet difficult to write a review for. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Sally Atkins
2.0 out of 5 stars Story didn't really work
I finished this book last night and was glad that I didn't have to read it anymore. I persevered to the end, hoping that it might all come together in a final reveal all climatic... Read more
Published 4 months ago by KS Bath
1.0 out of 5 stars The sea change
Enjoyed the story good reading. I do read a lot and certainly it was different, but enjoyable.
Try it and enjoy it.
Published 5 months ago by Frankie
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book.
The book arrived in good time and was as described. Thank you.
This was a book recommended from our book group. Really enjoyed it.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs Pauline Hinson
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