- 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 (84 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sea House: A Novel Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
The second storyline begins in the 1860s and is told through the points of view of two characters, the Reverend Alexander Ferguson, and Moira, a young woman he rescues from a bleak existence and who becomes his servant. Alexander and Moira are both interesting characters and I enjoyed their story somewhat more than Ruth's, perhaps in part because Ruth's story seems more internal while Alexander and Moira are actively involved in larger events around them. The selkie myth is brought into play because both Alexander and Ruth have been told they are descended from selkies.
Gifford does an excellent job with the setting in the Scottish isles of the Outer Hebrides. The isles can be beautiful but we see the harshness of the climate as well when she portrays the difficulties of the peasants trying to scratch out a living from unpromising soil. The physical descriptions of the landscape are vivid and the struggles of people being evicted from their land are movingly portrayed. There's a lot of sadness in this novel, but also a lot of hope and love as well.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved this story! The author did a wonderful job of telling the story from different perspectives and different periods of time in history. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Pat Donovan
On the shores of Scotland is a sea house where two tales unravel. Ruth, who is renovating the house, and hiding from her past and found another: mermaid bones buried beneath the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Cupcake Book Lady
This was also published as House by the Sea or just the Sea House - not sure which - enjoyed it very much - I do wish publishers of books from the U K would not change the covers... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mikki Mac
A great read. Gifford is a gifted writer and creates compelling synergy between past and present, the mundane and the mythical, romance and loneliness. Rev. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Lori
Title: The Sea House
Author: Elisabeth Gifford
Age Group: Adult
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars... Read more
Gee, this is a lovely writer; my first experience with Gifford's work. She has a fine sense of language, very pretty images and descriptions, and as I began the novel I felt like I... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Paula Cappa Reviews
A dual-time narrative, The Sea House centers around the house of the same name situated on Harris, an island in the Hebrides. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Beth