Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sea Garden: A Novel” as Want to Read:
The Sea Garden: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Sea Garden: A Novel

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Marcia Willett delivers another powerful and touching tale of the importance of friendship and family in The Sea Garden.

Jess Penhaligon is on her way to Devon to receive an award for her botanical painting. Hosting her will be Kate, who gladly welcomes her into her home. Jess's own family fell apart several years ago, so she is grateful for Kate's friendliness —and her clo
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published October 25th 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sea Garden, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Sea Garden

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 609)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I am on the second to last of Marcia Willett's books...just finished the Sea Garden and immediately began to read Postcards from the Past...It is the only way to tackle Willett's novels...start with the first one and simply plough through to the last....she repeats her characters in subsequent stories, but not necessarily in sequence, which unless you read them one after the other makes for incredible confusion...

You find yourself reading backwards to try to remember where you saw that character
Maurynne  Maxwell
This book is full of relationships; it's a continuation of the saga that began years and years ago with the story of the Navy families, and I don't wonder that some people gave it up, because there's a lot of relevant back story in 5 or 6 other books and no mention of that at all in the cover copy. Huge backlist opportunity lost by the publisher. I promise you will care a lot more about the characters if you've been reading Willett for a while and know the back stories. So, in context, as part o ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Denise rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Denise by: 45
Shelves: first-reads
Full disclosure: I was chosen a First Reads winner, and received a hardbound copy of this book complete with its lovely dust jacket illustrating The Sea Garden.

I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully-written tale of three generations of a family, as it unfolds through the eyes of Jess, the winner of an award that literally leads her to discover all of them and her connection to them. The characters and their relationships are an enchanting mix, as realistic as you'd find in any family. The story t
Vicki Carbone
Very sweet book. Also very English. This lovely novel, very character driven, explores the interconnectedness of friends and family and how the choices of one can alter and warp the lives of many.
Louise Crathorne
I loved this book even without the back story for the characters. I agree that it takes a while to get your head around the characters; I did have to write them down in the early stages, but once I'd got that straight I really loved the book
Nancy Baker
The Sea Garden lacked way too many few waves for me. I had a difficult time getting into this book as there were over 20 names mentioned in less than 30 pages. I finally had to draw out family trees to keep everyone straight. I have read many many books that go from present to past but this book seemed to do it without cause, pause or reason. I had trouble keeping track of what time tense I was in. The author also repeated scenes from the past so many times that I questioned if I had forgot my p ...more
Carol Best
Loved this book...I had no trouble keeping all the characters straight!
Sophie Houston
Unfathomable and unreadable.
I received The Sea Garden as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Jess Penhaglion's beloved father is dead and her mother has remarried and moved to Belgium. Somewhat adrift from her university studies in botany and her plans to be a teacher, she feels drawn to art, and her talent is proven when wins a botanical painting contest. While in Devon to accept the award, she stays with old friends of her colorful grandmother. As she unravels the group's knotty past, she discovers that what she always believe
Prepare to be bombarded by character! Lots and lots of them, you'll need a scorecard to keep them all straight. Makes it very tough for the reader, I almost gave up. Especially considering how much detail the author goes into for some of these characters, which are really out on the fringes. Some of them, Mark and Giles for example, aren't even involved in the main storyline. The story keeps flipping from past to present and gets murky in spots. Even the big reveal ending was a big yawn. This Se ...more
I was truly surprised-after I read the flyleaf I thought "well, I just spoiled the whole book for myself", but nope, there were twists and surprises that I really enjoyed in this book. This is the first Marcia Willett novel I've read, although she has more than 20 books in addition to short stories under her belt.

Weaving Kate's memories with Jess' current experience gave a hint of what led to Jess visiting England and meeting the people who knew her family better than she did herself. Strained
*I won this book through goodreads' first reads.

There are two criticisms I've heard people give about books I've never understood before that, after reading The Sea Garden, make perfect sense to me. The first is that the characters don't have distinct voices when they're speaking. The second (which I've received myself in regard to my own writing) is that there are too many characters introduced too quickly and they're too hard to keep track of.

In part due to those two reasons, I have no idea wh
Elaine Mulligan
New to me author and I was a bit lost with so many characters, and their stories, - it turns out many are from the author's 20 earlier novels so fans of the author will LOVE this. What grabbed my eye was the cover art and then the summary of the book. From the author' website:

'Jess, winner of The David Porteous' Botanical Painting Award for Young Artists, little knows that when she accepts the invitation from the award founder's widow, Kate, that she will be opening Pandora's Box. Far from being
Jess, who has just finished university, has won a prestigious prize which gives her the opportunity of a year off. In meeting Kate the widow of the prize donor, she finds herself staying in a village in Devon for a while, where she meets a large number of connected people, and feels herself oddly at home.

The elderly Rowena is surprisingly excited at the thought of meeting Jess, who turns out to look remarkably like her grandmother did when she was young... and it seems there may be another conne
A delightful story told in Marcia Willettt's unique voice. Sweet and charming. But if you have not read her previous books, you won't understand the history of her characters, which are in her previous novels. It doesn't stand alone well.
Rowena knows a secret. She is 92 years old and a guest is coming to visit. Her suspicions will be proved right all along. A bit of a mystery, a love story all rolled into one.
I'm going to be able to speak "British" with the best of them if I read many more novels by English authors. At first I thought this book would have too many characters to keep straight and I did have to re read a few sections to get everyone sorted out. It was excellent and the mystery I thought I had solved turned around on itself at the end. Very satisfying.
It was pretty good -- again some family secrets that were kept hidden until a grand daughter was able to solve it. She was somewhat stressed when she discovered that the person who she thought was her grandfather wasn't really. It changed her life to learn the truth about her ancestors.
I won this book through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

The story is heartfelt and ridden with emotional ties and undertones. At times it reads almost like a Maeve Binchy novel with descriptions of the English hillside and all of these intertwining relationships. My biggest complaint was at times the book was also dense, at times it was hard to keep characters straight and the big reveal took a lot of building up to. Reading it felt like watching a soap opera play out with a variety of charact
I usually like her books, but this story line was weak. The main characters had lots of musings and repetitive dialogues. The book could have been half it's length.
I really like this series of books where you can read each book independently from the others. Each time I read one it feels like visiting with old friends while acquiring some new ones.
A little hard to follow - meanders around but grabs one's attention toward the end of the book and the rambling begins to make sense. The description of the sea garden is the most evocative part of this book and what I enjoyed the most. Family secrets is the theme of this book.
I loved it but if you haven't read her earlier books it's not going to come together as well for you. The setting is wonderful as usual, want to visit there myself someday!
I'm very excited to read this! It's a new story for myself and I hope I will have a chance to read it :)
It was an ok read, but I found the number of character names very confusing and had to keep going back to see who they were.
I gave up quite early on because I just couldn't keep track of all the characters. I couldn't remember who was who and how they were all interconnected. I think the only way I could have done so was to write them down so I could refer back to it. I then realised that reading the book wasn't worth all that hard work, so I'm disappointed to say that the book beat me. Shame!
Perhaps I'll attempt it again one day, but not soon!
Found it a bit hard to keep the characters sorted out to start but persevered and enjoyed the twist in the tale at the end. The families were somewhat familiar to me but I really could not remember the previous stories well. The author clearly expected that readers would be familiar with the characters. I have really liked this author but was a little disappointed with this latest book.

Sherrie Howey
Initially, I had a tough time getting all of the characters straight but as I progressed through the book, it became very clear. It is a lovely book and very English and totally enjoyable. Loved certain characters, including Jess, Kate and Johnnie and Oliver. There is an interesting twist towards the end which came as a total surprise to me but well appreciated.
Difficult to keep track of the characters without writing down their names and relations. Kind of predictable, and some of the lines felt a bit staged and just awkward. An ok book, but not one I'll ever read again.
Het lange wachten op Marcia's nieuwe boek wordt beloond. Wat een prachtig ontroerend verhaal!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Good Year for the Roses: A Novel
  • Paradise House
  • The Palace of Tears
  • Slaughter in the Cotswolds (Thea Osborne, #6)
  • The Geometry of Love
  • Friday Nights
  • Magpie Hall
  • The Secret Portrait (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #1)
  • A Dangerous Affair (Liberty Lane, #2)
  • Autobiography of a Wardrobe
  • The Wandering Soul Murders (A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery #3)
  • Kehua!
  • Homing (Williamsburg, #7)
  • Murder by Magic
  • Life Drawing For Beginners
  • Dark Times in the City
  • Ruby's Spoon
  • A Word After Dying (Mitchell and Markby, #10)
Marcia Willett began her career as a novelist when she was fifty years old. Since that first novel Marcia has written twenty more under her own name as well as a number of short stories. She has also written four books under the pseudonym "Willa Marsh", and is published in more than sixteen countries.

Marcia Willett's early life was devoted to the ballet, but her dreams of becoming a ballerina end
More about Marcia Willett...
A Week in Winter A Summer in the Country The Children's Hour The Summer House The Birdcage: A Novel

Share This Book