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The Sea House

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  266 ratings  ·  31 reviews

The architect Klaus Lehmann loves his wife, Elsa, with a passion that continues throughout their married life despite long periods of separation. Almost half a century after Lehmann's death in the village of Steerborough, a young woman, Lily, arrives to research his life and work. Pouring over Klaus's letters to Elsa, Lily pieces together the story of their lives together

Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Penguin UK (first published January 1st 2003)
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Down by the Sea
282nd out of 343 books — 338 voters
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Community Reviews

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"Lily moved in with Nick the following month. There was no request, no whoop of acceptance when she said she would, just the assumption, when her landlord raised her rent, that it would be more convenient if she brought her things to his. They had talked about where they’d store her paintings, her clothes, her washbag, even her bag of cotton wool, and somewhere in between their plans to extend the wardrobe right into the corner of the room she forgot there was something that had not been said."

It's too bad the cover art doesn't pull up; that's how Eduardo picked it. The cover is integral to the story. It's about an artist who paints pictures of houses and there are several architects in the mix, going back and forth between 1953 and current. The back says a "gentle" story, which it is. And a sweet English coastal setting.
Dear Esther Freud,

Please read what I am about to say carefully.

The extremely common phrase "thank you" is merely a shortened version of "I thank you."

"You" is the direct object; "thank" is the verb. The phrase is made up of two words.


Are you paying attention? TWO ZARKING WORDS.

It's not "thankyou", it's "thank you".

Is it really that hard of a concept? NO. It's not.

But time after time your characters said "thankyou", a word which is only correct when used as an adjective or a noun.

I liked the way each alternating chapter was set in either the past or the present, and I liked the way the characters' stories were intertwined. I did not, however, like the ending.

As I read the book I worked out that there were two ways it could end: romantically or realistically. It was the latter. (Way to ruin my faith in happy-ever-after, Esther Freud.) But I wouldn't have minded so much if it was just that the realistic ending was less happy - because although the male MC in 1953 didn't ge
In the words of Despereaux's mother, who after much labor gives birth to only one live mouseling, this book was "Such the disappointment!"
I was hoping for a diversion for the academic work that has been fatiguing me, but keeping tracking of the unnecessarily convoluted story-line was too much work.
Some of the writing is very lovely and has a lilting quality. The book's binding too is attractive, especially the thick, smooth pages.
I had significant hopes for these characters, to delve into the m
Eh. It's fine. A pleasant pastime, reading this, but also kind of plodding. I have nothing against it though. Well, wait: in a story where so much has to do with the physicality of the village where it takes place, where maps are drawn and diagrams of remembered rooms, and the painting of a particular scroll is such a big plot device, I could not really get a visual idea of the place. Did I just not pay close enough attention to the descriptions or did any one else have this problem as well?
This book started off quite interesting then became steadily more boring until I was overcome by stupor and lethargy at around page 97.

Recommended for insomniacs.
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
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

The 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 Els
I found this book slow to get into but once I did, I was spell-bound. Set in the remote coast of Suffolk/Norfolk where the sky is big and the sea battles to reclaim stolen land, I was drawn in to this lonely isolated world and I found that the story stuck with me for days after I had finished the book as I savored various elements of the story. Set in the past and the present, the characters are eventually woven together so that time is spanned and knitted together. I think that was the sense I ...more
Vor ca. 2 Jahren war das Buch auf der Leseliste eines Seminars und wie meistens hab ich mir's direkt gekauft ohne zu wissen, dass die Liste wieder geändert und das Buch nicht mehr darauf sein wird.
So lag das Buch also einige Zeit ungelesen im Regal bis ich es vor kurzem entdeckte und mich voller Elan an's Abarbeiten des SUBs machte....
Lange Rede, kurzes Fazit:
Interessantes und vielschichtiges Buch mit einem Ende, das mir leider nicht so ganz gefiel.
Sehr gut gefallen haben mir allerdings die Zei
Andrew McClarnon
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 sto ...more
but ultimately found myself skipping by in chunks so didn't like it enough to read in full...
Rowena Banerjea
Very well-written. Interesting characters who were well-developed. Unfortunately, their plot lines tailed off a bit towards the end.
A gentle, well written and satisfying story.
I was in an independent book shop in England and I asked the shop worker for something "British" and this was the first book she grabbed off the shelf. It is very British, about a small village on the Eastern coast in Suffolk. Chapters alternate between the present and the past while two different but very similar stories play out. Satisfying story.
Desiree Ann
a little dragging to read... some parts were boring and confusing because of too many twists but it's intriguing enough that you'd want to keep reading til the last page.

though i wouldn't read it again, i liked it because it inspired me to go to places. Unknowns and uncertainties could lead to self-discovery. Someday, I'll do the same thing as lily did.
There were certain aspects to this book that I found almost annoying. Certain words she chose to use, or just some way she would write something to explain it.

It gave her "quivers of delight" the way the pastry went into the pan? Really? Good grief :P
I enjoyed the visual descriptions very much as well as the wonderful advice about painting in letters written to Max before the war. The parallel relationships which wound through the story and the effects of trauma made this a worthwhile read.
If at first you find this book boring and slow, don't give up! I almost did and I'm so happy I didn't. After a while, I found it impossible to put it down. It's gentle, sweet, charming, and Esther Freud is a brilliant author.
Judy Porter
One of the worst books I have ever subtle that you can't get all of the plot. I started it once and had to restart as I thought I had skipped something. Don't waste your time.....
Catherine Allen
I enjoyed this book. I liked the way the sea setting was evoked and the parallel between the two eras. The plot was a bit contrived but still a good read.
Too confusing for me. I couldn't keep the characters straight, or the time frame.
Strange but fascinating love story with a psychological and historical background.
A beautiful love story. Made me want to move to a small seaside town.
Like listening to a soft sad melody. I am glad I read this book.
beautifully written, poetic, passionate and lyrical
Ana Silva Rosa
Read for school. Liked it a lot.
Inceput greoi, compenseaza finalul.
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Esther Freud was born in London in 1963. As a young child she travelled through Morocco with her mother and sister, returning to England aged six where she attended a Rudolf Steiner school in Sussex.

In 1979 she moved to London to study Drama, going on to work as an actress, both in theatre and television, and forming her own company with fellow actress/writer Kitty Aldridge - The Norfolk Broads.
More about Esther Freud...
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“... a discovery you make yourself is worth twenty thousand things that you are taught, even if it is a discovery that everyone else has made.” 5 likes
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