Moira who I admit is my favourite is a fiery young woman consumed primarily by two things: Each little tale is deployed carefully, in scenes where it will have the greatest impact. And each tale sheds light on the psychological states of the main characters and the trials through which they suffer…and strive to overcome. They are part of the myth that underpins the novel. The actual writing is assured, a fresh, clean prose reminiscent of Susan Hill.
The narrative never dragged and I felt that the varied chapter lengths were tailored well to each piece of exposition. Jan 21, Karin rated it it was amazing Shelves: I really liked this book! Under one of the floors in the house they find the grave of a tiny little mermaid baby- a baby who was so undernourished that her legs fused together instead of developing normally. This baby haunts Ruth, who herself was left as a young child when her mother died, an apparent suicide.
She wonders why the baby wasn't buried in a graveyard- but sees the cloth wrapped lovingly around it and believes someone did love the child. Ruth has not dealt well with her life in foster homes and a youth group home. She realizes she is pregnant and wonders whether she can be a good mom with the horrid past of her unloved self. She does not want to see a counsellor about this because she is afraid of the social service community- will they take her child away if she seems like an unfit mother?
So, all this comes out in bursts of anger taken out on her husband Michael. This in and of itself would make an interesting story but interwoven into Ruth's story is the history of the people who lived in and around her house in the late s; specifically the story of a young minister just starting his career. Alexander is busy helping the parish folk and also working on the mystery of the Selkies- a fairy-tale told down the ages that he was descended from sealmen- Selkies. Were they a link in Darwin's evolutionary chart showing that people did emerge from the sea? While he is pondering the mysteries of God and the mysteries of fossils, skeletons and fairy stories, his maid, Moira is living the real- life story of a women torn from her friends and family by the cruel deeds of the lord of the area.
Her family and friends were driven from their homes to a barren and fruitless area where the ground poisoned the food and many died. When most of the people had died, the lord just came in and burned the houses down. So Moira has her own sadness to deal with. How all these stories are intertwined makes for a fascinating tale.
It is also beautifully told- I'd love to go see the land and sea Gifford is describing. Since this is an ARC book a few changes I'd like to see are: While I was trying to orient myself to where on the islands things were taking place, I had to really strain to get the names of the villages. Because this whole part of Scotland is unfamiliar to me, I really wanted to know where I was. All in all, an excellent story, wonderfully told. Oh, I received this book in a giveaway draw at goodreads. Nov 10, Coranne rated it really liked it. This book fell into my lap unexpectedly.
Other than having an author that I very vaguely recognized the name of and a pretty cover- I really had no idea what this book was about. I started the book without even reading a blurb about it. This book was a very unusual read for me- it was literary fiction, historical, dramatic, and had ghosts in it sort of. This was not at all my typical read. I found myself somehow engrossed in the story and a little angry at myself that I was.
It had so many thin This book fell into my lap unexpectedly. It had so many things in it that I generally hate in books- dead babies, ghosts, drama, bad things that I can't refer to or it would spoil the plot , and well..
I was happy that I had read it. Now I know you are probably thinking- you hated this book and you want me to read it? Well I will say this- it is not a fluffy read. You cannot go into it expecting something light hearted and frouffy. It is not a romance novel and it is not something to read if you are very cheerful. What it is is a painful and honest story about one woman's journey from loss and a deep pit of pain and bitterness into redemption and wholeness. I enjoyed the flashing between past a present. I will be honest- I didn't read it closely enough to see precisely how the two were tied beyond the obvious but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
I was a little confused that this had ties to Christianity. It has very little "religion" in it- though one of the main characters is a reverend in the past- there is very little focus on that part. I could see this book being enjoyed by many people- Christian, non- Christian- pretty much anyone. I can't say this is a book I will revisit again I like happy books, what can I say? It was enjoyable and the author is very talented.
If you like selkies, Scotland, history, or a good depressing read- check it out! Secrets of the Sea House isn't something I'd ever have picked up of my own accord, and it had the great misfortune of being read at the same time as the phenomenal S. Despite all that, I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected to. There's always a sense of obligation with book club books that I've stupidly left until the week of the monthly meeting, then have to tear through at lightning speed. I usually end up resent Secrets of the Sea House isn't something I'd ever have picked up of my own accord, and it had the great misfortune of being read at the same time as the phenomenal S.
I usually end up resenting the book a bit which I know is daft and entirely my fault, but still, it happens. In this instance though, I actually found myself enjoying the surprising little story so much that I set S. Secrets of the Sea House is told from three different perspectives. There's modern-day Ruth, who begins renovating an old sea house only to find the remains of a "mermaid baby" buried under the floorboards. And then in regular flashbacks to , there's vicar Alexander and his wild maid Moira. I enjoyed the historical sections more than the modern ones. Ruth's backstory heaps tragedy atop tragedy, to the point that I couldn't empathise with her as a "real" character because her misfortune felt too unlikely.
But Alexander's quest to discover the truth behind selkies and mermaids made for a compelling story, as did the clearance of the island under its cruel governor. Towards the end, there's quite a long time jump in which I would love to have read much, much more about Moira. She was easily my favourite of the three, torn between her desire for revenge for her family's deaths, and her loyalty and devotion toward Alexander.
If I'd have judged this book by its cover, I would have guessed it to be a run-of-the-mill romance, so am very glad I was persuaded to give it a chance. I seem to be reading a lot of books about spooky old houses lately. Not sure what that says about me, other than I like books about spooky old houses, obviously! This one has a dual timeline, set in and the present day on a Hebridean island called Harris.
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 I seem to be reading a lot of books about spooky old houses lately. 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. Aug 12, Joanne rated it really liked it. Sometimes you just stumble across a book you've never even heard of and it turns out to be a treasure. Such is the case with The Sea House. It was lying discarded on a table in the library and I liked the cover. It turned out to be a fascinating read.
My husband's grandmother was from the Isle of Lewis and he grew up hearing tales about the hardships of life there. When I read this book, I was stunned to hear about expulsions and forced emigration much like Ireland.
I had no idea. It makes you un Sometimes you just stumble across a book you've never even heard of and it turns out to be a treasure. It makes you understand why some Scots want independence even now. At any rate, the story itself was really compelling. Ruth and Michael buy an abandoned old manse with the idea of renovating it into a Bed and Breakfast.
When they tear up an old floor, they find a baby's skeleton carefully interred under the house. This is no ordinary baby, however, as it appears to be the offspring of a Selkie. Ruth's mother was from the island, had run away to London, and drowned herself a decade later, leaving Ruth alone in the world of foster care.
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Now Ruth wants answers about her past, while grappling with crippling anxiety and deep-seated rage that threatens her marriage and mental wellness. The story swings back and forth from the s to the s, with half of the novel about the Reverend Alexander Ferguson, who lived in the manse when the baby was buried there. The Reverend is obsessed withe the legends of mermaids, Selkies and Finnmen that abound in the Hebrides, and spends much of his time trying to find definitive proof of their existence.
This obsession overtakes him and ultimately ends his ministry. I found the characters very engaging. There were a few times when the academic treatises on Selkies and mermaids dragged a bit, but they were necessary for the understanding of the myths. Overall, I loved this book, and I'm not averse to a reasonably happy ending either. Dec 30, Marguerite Kaye rated it really liked it. When I was wee, my Nana, from Lewis, used to tell me stories of Selkies and seal people. My Grandpa, a sea captain, told me stories of mermaids.
These tales have always fascinated me, and along with my mum's stories of her childhood holidays spent on Lewis have coloured some of my own writing, so this book was right up my street. I really enjoyed it. It had lots of things I love - a dual timeline, mythology, ghosts, tragedy and lots and lots of amazing, evocative island colour.
As ever, I will skip the plot because I don't want to give anything away, but there's a great back story, and it's not one of those ones that starts out interesting and tails away, it carries right through to the end of the book. The front story, I did feel in places could have been dealt with in more detail. Ruth has a horrible background - actually, beyond horrible - but we see it only in snapshot.
This, and her pregnancy, colour her emotional reactions to what is going on in the Sea House, and that's done really evocatively, but I did feel that more could be made of it. She 'heals' far too quickly in a very short space of pages, and while I'm fine with never knowing exactly how much of her experience was in her head and how much might have been ghosts, I did think it was too glossed over - like the writer was hurtling towards the end of the book and running out of space. That was my only gripe though.
If you like time slip, fairy stories and loads of atmosphere, I'd highly recommend this one. Aug 28, Holly 2 Kids and Tired rated it really liked it.
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During the renovations, they discover the remains of a baby whose legs are fused together. From appearance, a mermaid child. Ruth, in an effort to overcome her own issues of abandonment and to find out what happened to the mermaid baby, begins researching the history of The Sea House and learns the story of Reverend Alexander Ferguson a newly ordained pastor, recently arrived on Harris. Having always been told he was descended from the selkies or seal people, Alexander has had a lifelong fascination with mermaids. Historically, I was intrigued by the premise of The Sea House and Elisabeth Gifford has done an amazing job of blending legend with fact as well as addressing issues of PTSD and abandonment.
There were some complaints on this tour that the book contained profanity. I found two instances of the "F" word in only one sentence and it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. A fascinating, compelling story. Aug 27, Michelle rated it really liked it. This book was way better than I expected.
I have actually read a few novels set in this area and so I was curious to see how this book portrayed life. This book is mainly about the mysterious seal people or Selkies. The story starts with Ruth and her husband who find a baby mermaid skeleton underneath their house they are renovating.
The storyline sounds odd but the mermaid part of it and folklore was really very interesting. The story goes between a few people so I had to really think about who This book was way better than I expected. The story goes between a few people so I had to really think about who I was reading about.
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Ruth wants to discover how the baby got under the house and the book flashes back to what happened so long ago. I really enjoyed this book because it was different but I think it could have ended better. I didn't feel closure but maybe that's not a bad thing. There has been a lot of bad reviews written because there is some bad language.
People make it out to seem like the entire book is full of it and it's really not, it's one sentence. While I don't appreciate cuss words in books, I think the negativity has blown up the true qualities this book is about. I still recommend this book. If you are in need of a cozy beach read or a summer afternoon break this book is a good pick. The story is played out an old, almost derelict house known locally as The Sea House.
The modern story is related by Ruth who with her husband has bought the Sea House, they intend to renovate it and open it up as a guest house. Work comes to a halt when the remains of a small child are found, buried deep under the house. The Laws of Human Nature. The Bullet Journal Method. The Stars Within You. Step Into Your Moxie. Stuff Every Woman Should Know. Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman.
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