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The Sea House (2004)

The Sea House (2004)

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3.36 of 5 Votes: 5
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0141026545 (ISBN13: 9780141026541)
penguin uk

About book The Sea House (2004) only other title I have read by this author is Hideous Kinky and I have to admit I enjoyed it more than this one. I found it took me a long time to get into the story and appreciate how the two time periods linked together.Lily is a young woman studying for a degree in architecture and for her thesis is researching the life and work of architect Klaus Lehmann. She has in her possession aiding her with her studies love letters from Klaus to his wife Elsa. He died nearly fifty years previously in the in the Norfolk coastal village of Steerborough, where he was a resident. To help her piece together the story of his marriage she has decided to rent a cottage in that very same village.The story swaps about from the current day with Lily immersing herself in the village and her research and realising that all is not as she wants it to be in her relationship with her boyfriend Nick.The other chapters take us back in time to the fifties, when Elsa was often living alone in the village when Klaus was away working, with only friends Gertrude Jilks and Max Meyer for company. It is through Max’s eyes that we learn about the Steerborough of that period.We learn of the love and disappointments that both these women face in their lives and how the village itself seems to have an affect on their lives.In my opinion The Sea House lacked any great passion apart from the excellent geographical descriptions of the village and surrounding countryside.It was in all a pleasant enough read but did not have a great impact on me.

Some books just immediately envelop the reader in the story, and it's a full race to finish the story. Other books stop you at the gate. This book...well, my gate was locked and when it finally opened, BAM, the story took off so quickly I was practically inhaling the pages.Whether this is what Esther Freud intended, I'm not sure, but I was not looking forward to the first half of the book. I dragged myself through it, noting the various characters and their surroundings and the world of art and architecture. Then the second half of the book was completely different, I couldn't wait to get through the pages. Freud is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund and the daughter of Lucian, so that explains the psychology and the art. The story takes place in "Steerborough", which is really an invented name for the real village of Walberswick in Suffolk, England. Anyone who's been to that part of the isle knows how the sea is always battling the shore, and by the time I realized that raging water was the real star of the book, I was finished.Although I really became involved in the book at the midpoint, I still only give it three stars as I just couldn't accept the sudden resolution to everyone's lives. That, perhaps, is more a defect of me as a reader than of the author, so I suggest my review not put off those willing to make it down the stretch.Book Season = Winter (when the sea is angry)

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I love this novel from page one through to the end. Although the many of the characters suffered greatly during WWII, they sought to live positive, hopeful and happy lives without bitterness. During the mid-century, a deaf and damaged artist, an renowned architect who had escaped Germany with his beloved wife, a children's psychoanalyst, and the strange and wonderful humans who populated the same seaside village in the early 21st century. I especially liked Esther Freud's skillful weaving of the 1953 life in the village with the 2007 characters' lives. They were loosely tied together with plausible delicacy. Her use of letters gave context to the actions, thoughts and feelings of her characters and moved the story forward. It was easy to lose oneself in the descriptions of walks in nature and by the shore. What a lovely experience to spend time in a village at the seashore in the mid-twentieth century, alternating with a 21st century return to the same locale. The main character, Lily, whose passion was to uncover the secrets of the past.

2007 bookcrossing journal:In some ways, nothing much happens in this story - you can feel the heat from the summer - and yet it doesn't drag or is boring - which is curious considering some of the books I've read that are full of plot but are a real drag to bother reading.Set in the same village during two time periods, the book follows Lily (contemporary) researching an architect who once lived there and several Germans (past) including the architect and their time in the village. Gradually you find out what happened in the past and how their stories are related.She has a fantastic writing style, and I did enjoy this book although if I'm honest, I preferred Hideous Kinky.

This was one of my serendipity choices from the library. I love stories with a strong sense of place, and if you add architecture, a couple of time strands, and an enigmatic plot in with that, it should be all I need for a good read. I liked the slowly emerging parallels between the time strands, and of course the revelation of their connections - but there's not a fourth star because I found myself adrift too often, looking for a hand from a stronger character to show me the way through the stories. Perhaps a little like the East Anglian coast, an enigmatic emptiness which you have to make your own way with.
—Andrew McClarnon

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