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Comment: Exlibrary hardcover in dust jacket- light reader wear Has all the usual library marks, stickers, and stamps.
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The Sea House: A Novel Hardcover – April 15, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Set in a house on the windswept coast of the Outer Hebrides, this haunting tale effortlessly bridges a gap of more than a century. Adeptly interweaving two tales involving residents of the titular house, Gifford sets up an absorbing mystery revolving around local lore and myths about mermaids, selkies, and sealmen. In 1860, novice vicar Alexander Ferguson takes up his new post as parish priest and moves into the Sea House. Fast forward 130 years and newlyweds Ruth and Michael purchase the dilapidated house and begin renovating it. After they unearth the bones of an infant whose legs and feet are fused together, Ruth realizes she must discover what really happened in order to face and destroy her own very personal demons. Stretching seamlessly back and forth through time, layers upon layers of secrets are slowly and effectively peeled away in this evocative debut. --Margaret Flanagan


“A gripping journey into the past: a stunning exploration of the mysteries that define individuals and communities. Liz Gifford is a writer with a talent for storytelling.” ―Emma Chapman, author of How To Be A Good Wife

“Hints of magic abound in Gifford's haunting fiction debut…Gifford has an ability to bring depth to her characters, whether they live in the 19th century or the 20th, and this helps hold together her sweeping tale.” ―Publishers Weekly


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250043344
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250043344
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This haunting novel is a master in creating a sense of place and atmosphere.

Ruth and Michael have just moved into the dilapidated Sea House on the Hebridean Island of Harris. Everything should be perfect but Ruth feels she is being haunted and finds herself pushing her beloved Micheal away. While redecorating, the couple make a horrific discovery: buried beneath the floorboards are the tiny bones of a dead child. A mermaid child. Ruth cannot rest until she discovers why the poor creature was buried there.

In 1860 the young and handsome Reverend Alexander Ferguson struggles to find peace in his new home: the Sea House. Unaware of the suffering his landlord is causing to most the islands inhabitants, Alexander strives to discover the link between the recently sighted mermaid and his own Selkie history while being the rock of his new community. As he teaches his maid Moira to read and write, she begins to understand his own naivety which could lead to dangerous obsessions.

Gifford has weaved these two stories together with an experienced hand and shimmering thread. Spooky, intriguing and urgent, the book will keep you riveted to its satisfying conclusion. Ruth is an almost fatally flawed heroine whose strength of character sees her triumphing over many devastating discoveries; you feel proud of her by the end.

Dark and magical, the atmospheric story is a punch above your average beach read.

Reviewed by Nikki Mason on behalf of BestChickLit.com.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Selkie lore and a beautiful seaside house link stories generations apart. Ruth and her husband buy the now ramshackle house with the intent to restore it as a bed and breakfast. Ruth, a product of the child welfare system, finds solace in the selkie legends. But her tenuous grasp at peace and domestic bliss is challenged when the bones of a deformed infant are found buried under the floor of the house. Newly pregnant, Ruth hopes that investigating the past will help her endure the future. This hunt inevitably leads to Alexander, a minister and former resident of the house in the 1800s. Like Ruth, he clings to family lore that he too is descended from the mystical sea creatures. A kind man, he educates his fiery maid Moira while deflecting the charms of the young lady of the manor. But mythical magic is no protection against the harshness of life on the island and Alexander finds himself broken and lost.

More romantic than mysterious, the interwoven stories held my interest. I found Alexander's more compelling than Ruth's. The greed and brutality of the gentry is contrasted with the battle for survival by the poor. Moira is strong and likeable, an intelligent woman with a dark agenda. Happily the scientific explanation for the selkies did not suck the magic from the myth. I did feel that the contemporary story felt more like the seventies than the nineties and the Leaf character was gratuitous. Similarly, the plug for psychological counseling was a bit much. It seemed that a stoic and private people would not be as receptive as portrayed. The sad tale of the dead baby was almost lost amongst the minutiae. Ruth's discovery of long lost family members seemed pat and contrived and the story would have been stronger had she been left with a void. While narrative never achieves any real emotional crescendos, it is wistful but ultimately uplifting. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One lovely, windswept stone house on a remote Scottish island. Two different residents, more than a century apart share that same house. Alexander Ferguson, budding naturalist and newly minted priest, heads to his new parish to tend to the fisherman, farmers and occasional gentry member in 1860. And in 1992, Ruth joins her husband to rehab “Sea House” into a bed and breakfast, where she can pursue her career as nature illustrator and start a family.

As Ruth and husband Michael are replacing the partially rotten floorboards in the living room, a skeleton in a trunk is discovered-an infant with fused legs. Both Alexander and Ruth are rumored to be children of the Selkies, the Scottish myth of people than can turn into seals and live in the sea. Could this be a Selkie child? And since the age of trunk would indicate it was buried in Alexander’s time period, how did it come to be there-and not in the church cemetery grounds across the road?

This is an intriguing history lesson as well as not only the Irish were uprooted by the potato famine and evicted by the landholders but the Scottish too. The displacement of families from one island to another and the ultimate uprooting to America are detailed during Alexander’s time on the island and what small part he played in that saga. And while Ruth searches for Alexander’s story in his journal, church papers and historical accounts, her own troubled past is uncovered and ties to the island revealed.

I loved the alternate explanation for the Selkie legend and one that ultimately made a lot of sense. It’s a haunting tale, flavored with myth, salt breeze and history and shows the author’s true love of the Hebrides in her debut novel. One for a good chair, a steaming cup of tea and this book.
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Format: Hardcover
A story told from two different perspectives is always interesting but add to that two different centuries and the story becomes riveting. When Ruth and her husband Michael decide to build a new life in a house they are rehabbing they never expected to find the remains of what appears to be a deformed baby. There are legends of this type of deformity and none that the average person would believe, but Ruth fears the stories she had been told of mermaids and sea creatures may have been true. Ruth listened to her mother tell the tale of where she came from and after her tragic death Ruth learned to let go but never stop believing.

When researching the remains Ruth is introduced to a set of journals created by the vicar who resided there many generations ago. As the story is laid out on each page it becomes clear that Ruth is more disturbed than ever about what she is reading. Her husband believes it may be the hormones from her pregnancy, but Ruth knows as she uncovers so many secrets that solving this mystery is as important and figuring out where she originated from and why her life unfolded as it had. Michael is her rock and the stability she needs to dig deep into the dark crevices of what her life was like that led her to be who she is now.
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