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The Seas

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  671 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
The narrator of The Seas lives in a tiny, remote, alcoholic, cruel seaside town. An occasional chambermaid, granddaughter to a typesetter, and daughter to a dead man, awkward and brave, wayward and willful, she is in love (unrequited) with an Iraq War veteran thirteen years her senior. She is convinced that she is a mermaid. What she does to ease the pain of growing up lan ...more
Paperback, 193 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Picador (first published 2004)
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Jun 29, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This book comes closer to my own pain than any other book I've read.

I don't know how to talk about it. I feel a little shaken.
Stephen P
Dec 01, 2016 Stephen P rated it it was ok
What is it that makes a book work? Fall apart?

The Seas captured a first person narrative voice of a young woman, sensitive and imaginative, whose voice soared. Abandoned in a wintry deaden northern town, her father walked into the sea. Didn’t return. What she knows is what her mother knows, they cannot leave until her father returns. They must wait. She is obsessed with a man fourteen years older than her who remains a companion but does not return the girl-woman’s passion. All others mock her f
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Little Mermaid Grows Up
A review by Alexis Smith

Samantha Hunt has written a layered debut novel, part fairy tale, part bildungsroman, and part meditation on the imprecision of language. It is a story that will sound vaguely familiar: a girl grows up in a small town, with its small town locales (laundromat, shipyard, shabby houses), its small town occupations (primarily drinking), and its small town tragedies (men lost at sea). In this setting, the unnamed narrator longs to escape her dreary e
Jul 29, 2011 Nick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, contemporary
I really liked this novel. Short and existential, and constantly questioning its reality. There are not too many "mainstream" novels in which the heroine has to push a beached King Neptune back in to the sea. The perceptual problems of the young protagonist are very alluring. I really believed she was turning into a mermaid. It's the only thing that made everything make sense.
Mar 17, 2016 Lauren rated it it was amazing
I saw a quick mention of this book online a day or two ago and it somehow lodge itself in my head. So strongly, in fact that yesterday I stopped at the library to pick it up, and read it today in one sitting. Even now, bookmark no longer needed, cover closed on the last words, it's still haunting me. But then, it's been like that with mermaids lately.

Because it is short and I regretted even reading the dust cover because it disrupted the book's siren song, I will give you only this: young teenag
Gayla Bassham
So here is what I thought when I finished this book:
1. Samantha Hunt is prodigiously talented and I am very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.
2. This is not actually a very good novel.

There's some really good stuff here and some really choppy, disconnected stuff. I believe this is the first book that Hunt wrote and it shows. There's some good writing here and Hunt shows a lot of promise, but I'm not sure what it's doing on the Orange longlist. I can't believe this is one of the t
Jul 01, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who love myth wrapped in everyday soot.
I feel as though I just read a story the likes of which I may not read again for a long time. Of course I hope I'm wrong, but-

Here is a story thick with mystery and empathy for "strange", lost people.

Just read the damn book. If it doesn't take your breath away and knock you on your ass like it did to me, so be it - may you soon find a story (or another one, if you already have!) that does that for you. Cheers.
Jul 10, 2013 Sherry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-this-year
A fascinating read with a gothic feel to it. A young woman's obsession with her vanished father, a troubled older friend who she wishes were her lover, and her own identity. This one can be read on so many levels.
Mar 30, 2011 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
A strange one this.

A debut novel longlisted for the Orange Prize two years after its author’s second novel was longlisted for the very same prize. There is no question over the books eligibility as it was first published in the United Kindom in July last year, but it does feel odd.

And the book itself has a certain strangeness.

“One night,” I begin and close my eyes, “my father, he was very handsome, he walked into the ocean. That was eleven years ago. He hasn’t come back though and even though th
Apparently, living out harsh lives in the small town leads to excessive alcohol-consumption and depression, and poor Jude is no exception to the rule. If you're not trying to escape reality by drinking, you have to immerse yourself in other pastimes. The girl's mother, who grew up on an island with mostly deaf people, loves contemplating in silence. The protagonist's grandfather enjoys perusing dictionaries and finding the origin of and connections between words. And in a way, both of them find ...more
Oct 17, 2013 Sami rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A strange, haunting book with moments of great beauty. The narrator is unreliable - a bereaved and troubled young woman in love with a damaged Iraq War vet. At times it is a bit heavy-handed with the imagery but there are many rich and artful moments. And yet it seems to me that it doesn't flow as it might. It is uneven. Beautiful nuggets everywhere, but like confetti, or trying to drink fog. A case of water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink. For the first half or more, anyway. The last th ...more
Apr 17, 2017 Priscilla rated it really liked it
You can read my full review here:

The narrator of The Seas is nineteen, living in a house with her mother and paternal grandfather. Her father disappeared into the ocean when she was eight. Before he left, at the breakfast table, he told her she was a mermaid. She believes now he was telling her they were from the ocean, and she awaits his return:

"People often suggest that it would be better if we knew for certain whether or not my father is dead rather th
Apr 17, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it
"Yet when she comes to earth she comes to seek for that without which her beauty will be forever cold, cold and chill as the surge of the salt, salt sea." -- Mary MacGregor in her telling of "Undine."

Samantha Hunt's dark, yet often whimsical, 2004 novel "The Seas" draws on the classic mythology of mermaids and mortals. The alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1521) theorized that Ondines were elemental water nymphs. According to legends, Ondines (or Undines) had no souls unless they married mortal men. Fr
Lola Wallace
Dec 24, 2007 Lola Wallace rated it it was ok
Some notes while reading

1. I was drawn to this book because I liked Hunt's contribution to Tin House's Fantastic Women issue, a short story entitled "Beast." I spent the first hundred pages of The Seas wishing she had stuck to the shorter format--it is repetitive in a way that is not especially lyrical or insightful but just gives the feeling that she didn't have enough ideas for sustained novel. But then she threw in the story about the narrator being furniture for a ship's captain. And Jude's
read for the 2015 reading challenge: a book you can finish in a day

Confession time: I did not finish this in a day. Not this time around, that is, but it took me only one night (roughtly 4 hours) to read it the first time. I really, really, love this book. It is highly surreal and weird in a rough way, it contains a strange imaginary and it challenges me to accept all of the narrators perceptions as real. I am inclined to do so anyway.

The seas is a novel about a girl who believes that she is a m
Libby Stephenson
Oct 08, 2014 Libby Stephenson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
Recommended for: humans, particularly those who enjoyed the style of The Stranger, the characters of Rebecca, and the magic of Pan's Labyrinth


I'm surprised that this book isn't more well known; it has so many delicious elements. Folk stories mixing with modern life, magical realism mixing with fantasy (which is it?), clinical insanity mixed with the "normal" insanity of which everyone has their own peculiar brand.

This is the story of a teenager, living in a rundown, and her
Melissa Baird
This is everything I love in a story: dark, unsettling, and beautiful. Madness and fantasy lurk at every turn. I read it in one sitting, transfixed from the first page, falling deeper under the spell of Samantha Hunt’s lyrical style.

The story is of an unnamed narrator in a bleak seaside town. Her father walked into the water one day and never came back. She is in unrequited love with an older, brooding war veteran, and she believes she is a mermaid, doomed to murder the one she loves and return
Mar 01, 2014 starfleetbrat rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
The Seas is a coming of age novel that has a dream like quality to it. Sometimes it feels like we are experiencing the text in a manner quite like the narrator experiences life. We cannot tell what is real and what is fantasy, each blurring seamlessly into the other.

The tone throughout the book was one of tragedy and loss in a small seaside town where alcoholism is a hobby and there seems to be no future readily available. The narrator is a young girl of nineteen who believes she is a mermaid. S
Niki Vervaeke
Een jong meisje dat opgroeit in een stadje vanwaar je alleen maar terug naar het zuiden kan.
De zee als link tussen haar en haar vermiste vader, de woestijn als zee bij Jude, de ex-militair met PTSD.

Ze groeit op, wachtend, zoekend, we volgen haar in haar hoofd, zien haar hopen op waarheid in het verhaal van haar vader, ze is een zeemeermin, zei hij.
Heel goed geschreven, een kort boek maar wel een klein pareltje.
Een klein stukje: “People often suggest that it would be better if we knew for certai
Norhan K kamal
Nov 14, 2016 Norhan K kamal rated it it was amazing
This was poetic, mysterious and enchanting, building a whole surreal world of its own that doesn't seem to belong to this one in any way.
I imagine if I write a book someday it'd be very similar to this and that is why I absolutely fell in love with it.
I can't put into words how much I admired the metaphors created by Samantha Hunt and the constant sense of wonder & questioning of whether these were delusions or a modern very-alive myth.
It's different from anything I've read before, short,
Jul 29, 2013 Jocelyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
"The Seas" has the feel of a dark fairy tale, this novel is delightfully different, but harbours disturbing truths about our human condition. Samantha Hunt so aptly captures the feel of an isolated coastal town, the quiet desperation of trapped lives. As the jacket blurb describes: "Part modern gothic, part coming-of-age, The Seas explores the grey boundaries between ocean and land, illusion and delusion, desire and reality."
if ariel lived in maine and had a thing for older men
AJ LeBlanc
Dec 08, 2008 AJ LeBlanc rated it really liked it
Shelves: cbr-iv, fiction
I like settings near the ocean. Not tropical, warm water oceans. Icy cold, grey water, you’re-going-to-die oceans. Settings where the sea itself becomes a character and changes the people that live nearby. I like the violence, the way the water affects the weather and how the weather changes the waves. There is power in the sea and characters can’t change it if they fight it. You either let the water change you or you leave.

Our nameless narrator is nineteen years old and she’s convinced she’s a
Superstition Review
Sep 29, 2016 Superstition Review rated it it was amazing
Samantha Hunt creates a masterpiece called The Seas. Her words are poetic. The use of similes make this story exceptional. She does a great job of setting up the environment in the novel, providing details about the weather so that I can easily picture each scene. When describing the town, she says, “If there was no rain, we would see how our poor town sits in a pit of sadness like a black hole or a wallowing cavity or an old woman.” Her use of metaphors creates a strong picture throughout this ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Courtney rated it really liked it
Shelves: coming-of-age, wtf, own
4 stars (as of 4/19/12). This book really grew on me in an impressive way. At first, I was stuck in comparison mode, which made me very conscious of the similarities between The Seas and Samantha Hunt's other novel, The Invention of Everything Else. I still prefer Invention to The Seas, but I really have to respect Hunt for writing a novel like The Seas.

Basically, it's about an unnamed 19 year old girl/woman (she's liminal in many respects, not just in terms of maturity) who is locked in a very
Mar 15, 2009 Nita rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason Furman
Aug 16, 2011 Jason Furman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, novel
The Seas was an extraordinary novel by Samantha Hunt. It is told in the first person by a 19 year-old woman living in an unnamed small, northern seaside town with only one road leaving it (to the South, the road does not continue north). We are told the town has the highest rate of alcoholism in the country and it appears to be up there in suicide, accidental death, depression, insanity and cruelty as well.

The lyrical and spellbinding story is narrated by a 19 year-old girl (she does not seem an
Feb 17, 2014 Alice rated it liked it
Fantastic voice, but what a ball breaker.

I struggled to rate this book because on the one hand I was continually impressed with Hunt's use of language and character voice, but then it was also highly flawed and....well, an exhausting read.

The writing is very stylistic. It's a treat, it's immersive and absorbing and even laugh-out-loud amusing at moments. The presence of the sea is continually tangible, it weaves its way through everything until my belief was completely suspended despite my best
Angela Powell
Mar 10, 2016 Angela Powell rated it liked it
I love how Samantha Hunt writes. The words are random, poetic, dark, and scattered. In one paragraph she'll have a character telling their story, and the next it'll be imagery for several pages so that you have to reread slowly, wondering if what you read was real, or just that random poetic style of hers.
In this novel, a 19 year old girl lives as far north as a person can go. Since Elephant Island is referenced, I'm guessing Antarctica? This young woman is completely obsessed with an older man
Jul 28, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
2008: I got this one from BookMooch after thoroughly enjoying Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else earlier this summer. The Seas was hypnotic and intense, repetitive in an undulating sort of way, lovely enough that I read it in one pass on my flight to Atlanta, then gave the book to my seatmate on my return flight home. Others have compared it to Francesca Lia Block's work, or to magical realism, and I think both are fair descriptions.

I wish I'd written this closer to finishing the book, but
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Samantha Hunt was born in 1971 in Pound Ridge, New York, the youngest of six siblings. She was raised in a house built in 1765 which wasn't haunted in the traditional sense but was so overstuffed with books— good and bad ones— that it had the effect of haunting Hunt all the same. Her mother is a painter and her father was an editor. In 1989 Hunt moved to Vermont where she studied literature, print ...more
More about Samantha Hunt...

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“You don't get to keep the feelings for someone you once loved. Once you've washed your hands of that person, all those feelings, all that dirty water is washed out to sea.” 2 likes
“I don't think you'll believe what I found," he says. "A word, razbliuto. We don't have a word to match it but we should. We should develop it tonight because the word means, 'the feelings one retains for someone he once loved.' "Hate?" Jude says.
"No, not that feeling," my grandfather answers and looks and Jude with disappointment.
"Betrayal," my mother says without looking away from her book.
"No," my grandfather says. "It's the little house loved moved out of, maybe a hermit crab moves in and carries the house across the floor of a tidal pool. the lover see the old love moving and it looks like it's alive again."
They are all wrong. There's a reason why we have no word for it. You don't get to keep the feelings for someone you once loved. Once you've washed your hands of that person, all those feelings, all that dirty water is washed out to sea. There is no word for that dirty water.”
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