- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Corvus; Main edition (1 Aug. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1782391118
- ISBN-13: 978-1782391111
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.4 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 411 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 900,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Secrets of the Sea House Paperback – 1 Aug 2013
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Secrets of the Sea House is an arresting tale of the things that haunt us. But the real pleasure in this debut novel is Elisabeth Gifford's finely wrought prose; at turns acute, delicate and fierce --Liza Klaussmann, author of TIGERS IN RED WEATHER
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
A multi-generational historical debut set in a beautiful manor house on an island in the Outer Hebrides, Secrets of the Sea House is a beguiling tale of love, loss and hope which will appeal to fans of Katherine Webb, Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.See all Product description
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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!
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.
Then the story flips back to the 19th century and we meet Rev Alexander Fergusson and his housekeeper Moira. the Reverend is obsessed with proving the existence of mermaids or selkies.
The story deals with the history of the islands and the displacement of the inhabitants by the landlord and it marries mythology in with history and modern times. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it.
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