Sea Stirred is a beautifully written coming of age story. Set in the rugged north of Cornwall, we join this lively and close-knit family on their annual summer holiday. The young protagonist, Martha, is devoted to her books and something of a loner, happily lost in the magic of literature and aspiring to be a writer one day herself. Although she fits in comfortably with her family and loves to join in with their activities, she is fiercely independent and is just as content to wander along the beach alone, looking for treasures. It is during one of these forays that she bumps into a boy coming in the opposite direction, clearly enjoying exactly the same occupation. Martha's life is about to change....
Caroline Williams is a talented writer, vividly capturing the turbulent emotions of first love - the excitement and angst; the joys of shared adventure; the secretive hoarding of personal treasures, be it a pebble found on the beach offered in friendship or the loan of a much loved book. The development of Martha and Alaric's relationship is not over romanticised but a gentle and realistic portrayal of a preteen friendship between like minded people. I enjoyed the effect of the dual first person narrative - though Martha herself and also by Cassie, her mother, who provides perspective and distance to Martha's story as it unfolds. Cassie watches the blossoming friendship with a mixture of motherly angst and approval. She gives support and advice when needed and learns to let go, allowing her daughter to grow. The evocative descriptions of Martha's family life through these two narrative voices are amusing, keenly observed and comforting. Their family unity and strength is juxtaposed, however, by the portrayal of Alaric's dysfunctional family, who have a very different set of values.
The characters in the novel are rounded and believable which, coupled with the author's empathy and eye for detail, transports the reader into living, albeit vicariously, alongside them.
I particularly loved the clever ending whereby the author succinctly brings us back to the beginning. A terrific read and I'm looking forward to the sequel!