Monday, 16 December 2013

Book Review: The Sea House - Esther Freud

Synopsis -  When Lily rents a cottage in the seaside village of Steerborough to research the life of a famous architect Klaus Lehmann, she's quickly entranced by the beautiful landscape and soon begins to question the hectic London world she inhabits with preoccupied lover Nick.

Uncovering the depth of Lehmann's passion, not just for his work but for his wife.  Lily finds herself seduced into a new life by neighbour Grae, a man she barely knows.  And she realises she must make a choice, between a past she thought she knew and a future much less certain...

Review - Set in beautiful Suffolk in the fictional village of Steerborough which according to Wikipedia is in reality, Walberswick.  Anyway, whether it is the real village with altered name or a completely fictional place is irrelevant as the author conjures up a beautiful coastal setting.  I visited Suffolk in the summer and the descriptions have brought back fitting memories of that flat and vast coastline with the long stretches of shingly sand and small villages.

The story is told in dual narrative.  We have present day Lily reading letters that Klaus Lehmann wrote to his wife Elsa.  Running parallel we learn about the Lehmanns through Max Meyer and Gertrude Jilks.  In both stories, we have women dealing with love, who they love.  Both time zones are set in the same area but apart from The Sea House, the characters do not live in the same cottage/homes.

I loved the main characters from the troubled Max to the lonely Gertrude and Elsa and in the present timeline I liked Lily.  I found the two men Nick and Grae selfish for both the same and separate reasons.  I liked the way the story developed and the journey the characters followed in coming to terms with their lives.  A gentle story which touches the readers hearts.

On reading the acknowledgements, the story is based on real characters.  Reference is made to the Suffolk painter John Turner and Esther Freud's grandfather Ernst Freud, amongst others.  5*

Penguin Paperback: ISBN 0-141-01107-6

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