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The Sea Garden

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  354 Ratings  ·  58 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)
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May 21, 2015 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a pleasing, gentle story, somewhat reminiscent of Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher. What a relief, as thrillers are everywhere and I’ve certainly read my share recently! This is my second novel by Marcia Willett, and, again one finds a recurring, poignant awareness of those loved ones who have gone before. The intertwining generations, the nostalgic glimpses of days gone by, and the author’s rich depiction of natural elements are all factors which weave the tale together suc ...more
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
Nov 07, 2013 Janis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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
Jul 10, 2014 Lacey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads-wins
*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
Louise Crathorne
Aug 28, 2013 Louise Crathorne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jul 10, 2014 Vicki Carbone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sophie Houston
Unfathomable and unreadable.
Feb 25, 2017 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, england
Jess Penhaligon is the recipient of the David Porteous art award and meets Kate, David’s widow before the presentation. Jess is the spitting image of her grandmother, Juliet, and it stirs up all sorts of memories and ghosts for Kate who was part of that crowd in her younger days. Kate invites Jess down for a visit and Jess is introduced to the others, who are still friends. They are all taken by the resemblance. Although Jess knows of her Grandmother Juliet, her own family had fallen apart and ...more
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
Jan 03, 2014 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2014
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
Katherine Coble
Why, oh writer, do you need to have a Mike and a Mark and a Jess and a Cass? Why do you need to throw some twenty similarly-named people (all with the same job of being in the British Navy) at the reader in the first ten pages? Why do you start a page in one time and place, only to shift to another time and place in the next paragraph? Of course, we have no clue until five paragraphs later that we are now back in time.

I suspect if I were in the mood for this type of storytelling it might have g
2 & 1/2 stars.
What a bizarre choice for narration! It's omniscient present-tense that switches from character to character to character (hopefully, you catch my drift here - there were a TON of characters), with the drop of a hat and sometimes, without a single hint of whose perspective you're inhibiting. It reminds me of Faulkner in some sense, only without the gravitas of Faulkner-esque quality. Also, the shifts between present and past will leave you in a whirlwind of confusion, if you're
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
May 25, 2015 Marjorie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am "stuck" on Marcia Willett!!! I simply cannot get enough of her gentle novels. It's not that the characters don't have problems, it's just that they learn to deal with them in a good way. There is no violence, bad language, graphic sex. Just nice people, the ones you want for your closest neighbor, best friend, oldest friend. The kind of people you really want to spend your time with. These are the kinds of people who actually populate a good part of the world, but the ones you hear about mo ...more
Jun 27, 2014 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
I, like many others, found that too many characters were introduced in the first few chapters and had to resort to drawing a family tree. Maybe if you can read the book, cover to cover in one sitting it would be less confusing. However, if like me you squeeze in reading between other tasks, the numerous characters and the constant time switches make the initial 50 or so pages hard to follow.
However, the sense of place which Marcia Willet conjures up, compensates greatly for other difficulties. T
Feb 25, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
JessPenhaligon 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 close unit of extended family and friends, who embrace Jess just as warmly. As the group begins to reminiscing on their past and sharing their stories with Jess, it becomes apparent that her family history may be linked with theirs. Long buried secre ...more
Nov 17, 2015 Raha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. The plot sounded interesting from the summary and vaguely reminiscent of a Kate Morton type book where there are flashbacks to the past. However, as soon as I started reading I got lost in the large number of characters (with very similar names) who were introduced all at once. It's hard to keep track of who's who and what generation they belong to, especially since the writing doesn't do much to make the characters sound different. Also, the fl ...more
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
Jan 13, 2015 Rosemary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Linda Wells
Dec 29, 2015 Linda Wells rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't read this whole book. I had to start over 2 times just to get the characters straight, and still I was having difficulty keeping track of who is who and who said what and after awhile I was like "who cares!" I very rarely don't finish a book that I have started but I just could not get into this one, it was not relaxing and it required way too much concentration and even that didn't help!
Jan 26, 2013 Angela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sep 15, 2014 Sheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Deborah Pickstone
Family story of the 'everything comes out happily ever after' variety. Comfort food reading. That aside, it is quite well written and the characterisation is sharp; the author has a happy knack for creating likable characters and making the reader care what happens to them. I'd be happy to read more by this author at times when I want comfort food.
Jan 30, 2015 Gloria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sherrie Howey
Jul 01, 2014 Sherrie Howey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.

Aug 24, 2015 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it very hard to get into this book; the cast of characters was so large. I believe it's a follow on to a series of novels I read so long ago (about British naval wives) that I've forgotten the details. I think if read in sequence it would be more enjoyable.
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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...

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“the ingredients for lunch: ciabatta bread, couscous salad with apricots, ham, and a goat’s cheese flan,” 1 likes
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