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The Sea House [Paperback]

Esther Freud
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

29 April 2004
The architect Klaus Lehmann loves his wife, Elsa, with a passion that continues throughout their married life, despite long periods of separation. Almost half a century after Lehmann's death in the village of Steerborough, a young woman, Lily, arrives to research his life and work. Poring over Klaus's letters to Elsa, Lily pieces together the story of their lives. And alone in her rented cottage by the sea, she begins to sense an absence in her own life that may not be filled by simply going home.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141026545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011073
  • ASIN: 0141011076
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 350,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Esther Freud was born in 1963 and lives in London. Her previous novels are Hideous Kinky, which was made into a film starring Kate Winslet, Peerless Flats, Gaglow and The Wild

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Gertrude's house was pink. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Love, art, and memory are the central themes of this fluid and multi-layered novel from Esther Freud. With its duel narrative, its epistolary structure, and its readiness to easily slip from the past to the present, The Sea House paints an indelible and quite beautiful portrait of a small English seaside community in Suffolk; a community that affects people from different generations in unexpected and quite life-changing ways.
Lily is twenty-seven and lives in London with her boyfriend, Nick. But when she visits the small seaside village of Steerborough, a few hours away from London, she is immediately entranced. Lily is pursuing a degree in architecture, while also working as a waitress at a restaurant in Covent Garden. She's been working on her thesis, whose subject is deceased architect Klaus Lehmann, a former resident of Steerborough.
When Lily moves to Steerborough and rents a cottage to continue work on her thesis, she takes with her a stack of letters from Klaus Lehmann to his wife, Elsa. The letters chronicle the periods during which Lehmann and his wife lived apart. While Lily's research is supposed to be focused on Lehmann's work as an architect, the possessive love letters that Klaus wrote to Elsa before and after World War 11 quickly intrigue and engross her.
The angst ridden and desperate letters of love, force Lily to confront her own relationship with Nick, and she realizes that a return to London would be just too deleterious. Lily has not only come to doubt Nick, but also her own ambitions; she begins to feel that she's not cut out to be an architect and anguishes that after three years of training, she still doesn't know what to do. She's content to live in the present, just "drifting around.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sort of dreamy.... 22 Sep 2011
By Jane Baker VINE VOICE
Luxurious prose, almost langourous, redolent of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and Ishiguro's Remains of the Day. I drifted through this book as though it were fantasy - which of course it is - with the very strange Max, the dippy Lily and the absent but ever-present Nick. I only really woke up when I had finished it. Not a literary feast but a good summer light, comfort read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seduction of Suffolk 8 Sep 2011
By Kate Hopkins TOP 500 REVIEWER
Freud's fifth novel is set partly in our own time, and partly immediately after World War II. In the present day, Lily, a former art student turned reluctant trainee architect comes to Suffolk to do research on the architect Klaus Lehmann (a follower of the Bauhaus School, who came to the UK as a refugee after Hitler came to power in Germany). Soon, Lily is seduced by the quiet beauty and remoteness of her surroundings. She becomes more interested in reading Lehmann's love letters to his wife Elsa than in Lehmann's work as an architect, and begins wondering whether she has really chosen the right career. All this has an effect on her relationship with workaholic boyfriend Nick, particularly when Lily meets Grae, her next door neighbour, and his two young daughters. Meanwhile back in the 1950s Max Meyer, another Jewish refugee, comes to Suffolk to stay with Gertrude Jilkes, a psychoanalyst, after his sister's death. In the quiet of the Suffolk village, Max rediscovers his love of painting, producing a massive scroll depicting the neighbourhood. He also finds himself increasingly drawn to the beautiful Elsa Lehmann, who, with her husband Klaus, is one of Gertrude's near neighbours.

The writing in this book is some of Freud's most beautiful. She brings the wide, flat Suffolk landscape wonderfully to life, and the information about the life of refugees from Nazi Germany, about the internment camps to which some were sent (Max has been briefly interned in Australia) and about post-war life in rural communities was wonderful. Freud also wrote beautifully about Lily's memories of her childhood, and the simple pleasures that she enjoys living in a Suffolk cottage.

The book was however slightly frustrating in certain ways.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in Passion 17 Sep 2008
The only other title I have read by this author is Hideous Kinky and I have to admit I enjoyed it more than this one. I found it took me a long time to get into the story and appreciate how the two time periods linked together.
Lily is a young woman studying for a degree in architecture and for her thesis is researching the life and work of architect Klaus Lehmann. She has in her possession aiding her with her studies love letters from Klaus to his wife Elsa. He died nearly fifty years previously in the in the Norfolk coastal village of Steerborough, where he was a resident. To help her piece together the story of his marriage she has decided to rent a cottage in that very same village.
The story swaps about from the current day with Lily immersing herself in the village and her research and realising that all is not as she wants it to be in her relationship with her boyfriend Nick.
The other chapters take us back in time to the fifties, when Elsa was often living alone in the village when Klaus was away working, with only friends Gertrude Jilks and Max Meyer for company. It is through Max's eyes that we learn about the Steerborough of that period.
We learn of the love and disappointments that both these women face in their lives and how the village itself seems to have an affect on their lives.

In my opinion The Sea House lacked any great passion apart from the excellent geographical descriptions of the village and surrounding countryside.
It was in all a pleasant enough read but did not have a great impact on me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: The Sea House - Esther Freud
Set in beautiful Suffolk in the fictional village of Steerborough which according to Wikipedia is in reality, Walberswick. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Booketta
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favourite books...
I loved this book - it had the ability to transport me completely into the two other worlds created in the two strands of the story. Read more
Published on 19 April 2011 by Ces
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, well-written
Ok, I'll admit, English literature graduates are unlikely to hold lengthy discussions on this novel..... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2004 by Gertrude
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
The book is set in coastal Suffolk and the descriptions of Walberswick are very evocative. The story itself however is depressingly hackneyed romantic fiction. Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars A Dissapointing Read
I bought this book hopeful after the amazing reviews that it received in the press, however, I was completely disappointed. Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2003 by "jimmygu"
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Hideous Kinky
The Sea House is written in a very controlled way, and I don't think it's a style that Esther Freud can maintain well throughout her book. Read more
Published on 22 Aug 2003 by Jenny Langton
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing
I have read both Hideous Kinky and Peerless Flats, and found them both alive and very vivid in their prose. Read more
Published on 16 July 2003 by peter andy
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