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The Sea House

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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,433 ratings  ·  319 reviews
In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkiesmermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend ...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by St. Martin's Press (first published August 1st 2013)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Dixie I believe the purpose of the last page was to answer the question of what happened to the other baby that Katriona had. We know it was one of two that…moreI believe the purpose of the last page was to answer the question of what happened to the other baby that Katriona had. We know it was one of two that were born to her and the second child was the one buried under the floorboards of the manse. The one that was named Anna Katriona was the one that left the island with her mother. Unfortunately, Katriona died three days after reaching her aunt's house.

The baby was given to Fanny, because she couldn't have children of her own, and Matthew. They were very good friends of the reverends and he was closely connected to Katriona.

Since the ending does leave us hanging just a bit, wouldn't it be nice to have a sequel that told of the story of Anna Katriona and the babies that Ruth had, or maybe the children that the reverend and Moira had.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Jeanne Mansfield I, too, am totally confused by the ending. It made no sense to me.
Please enlighten!

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Average rating 3.69  · 
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Kate Forsyth
An intriguing and atmospheric novel set in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland, the narrative moves between the contemporary story of Ruth and her husband Michael, and the islands in the 1860s when crofters are being forced to emigrate and science and religion are in conflict.


Ruth and Michael are living in, and renovating, the ramshackle Sea House on the Hebridean Island of Harris. Ruth is haunted by feelings of fear and grief, and worries they have made a mistake in sinking all their savings into
...more
Rebecca Carter
I saw this book on Amazon and I am so glad I bought it after I kept delaying reading it and assuming it would be ok, but nothing special. I was wrong. It was fantastic and although it's only just turned April, it will probably be one of the best books I read this year.
I loved the writing - atmospheric and so descriptive - I really felt like i was on the islands and could smell the salty tang in the sea air. The dual timeline (sometimes I find this distracting because you can lose your flow, not
...more
Kirsty
A lovely story and a really solid debut novel. I love a book with duality timelines, and even after reading only a few chapters I knew I was going to savor this book until the very end!

The story is based in a remote rundown house in the Hebridean island of Harris, Ruth and her partner decide to renovate the house and in doing so unearth the skeleton of a a baby with fused legs - a baby mermaid. To find out what tragedy befell the baby she proceeds to uncover the history of the house and its
...more
Kerry
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A haunting mystery about a young couple, Ruth and Michael, who in the present day are renovating a house on the Hebridean Islands of Scotland. It is challenging and they face many challenges with the house and in their personal lives.
The body of a baby with fused legs is found buried in the floor of the house. Which takes Ruth on a journey of discovery to find out what happened.
This links to the story of Rev Alexander Ferguson and Moira his maid in 1860. He is fascinated with the Selkie legends
...more
Mary
The Sea House is a dual-time narrative set on an island in the Hebrides. Ruth and Michael purchase the Sea House with plans to create an idyllic B&B. The discovery of a small coffin underneath the floorboards unsettles Ruth who feels driven to learn the baby's identity and why it was buried in secrecy. Her search is loosely tied to the story of Alexander Ferguson, a vicar who lived in the Sea House in the 1800s. Ferguson was conducting his own search to uncover the truth behind local legend ...more
Jules
This was quite an intriguing read, especially as I love myths and mystery. However, I didn't find myself really connecting with any of the characters, so failed to truly fall in love with this story.
Lola
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
You know when sometimes you read a book and the main subject really gets your attention but everything around it is just plain boring?

Well...this is one of those books.

I have to admit that this book was well written. The sentences were fluent and some were quite beautiful. I don't know, must be that this book had a special atmosphere, a calm and mysterious one. You must be thinking why I gave The Sea House only two stars, right? Well the thing is...I can't help but be honest in my reviews and
...more
Renita D'Silva
An intriguing mystery, alternating between the remote Scottish islands in the 1860s and present day. I liked Moira very much, her voice was very authentic. Liked Alexander Ferguson and his quest, his earnestness, his faith and his desire to do the right thing. Enjoyed it.
Barb
Contemporary and Historical Stories Unequal In Interest and Quality

There's a lot to like in this novel, the author does an especially nice job of showing the beauty of the landscape. The story takes place on South Harris Island, which is one of the Hebrides Islands off the west coast of Scotland. I'm not a traveler but Elizabeth Gifford's descriptions made me want to see the islands myself. While reading I frequently searched the internet for images of the areas that she was describing, the
...more
Megan Readinginthesunshine
I must say I was really looking forward to reading Secrets Of The Sea House, I particularly loved the cover of the book and the description on the back had me very intrigued as to the story within the pages.

Without going into too much detail so as not to spoil the story, Secrets Of The Sea House revolves around a Sea House and the secrets that lie within. We are taken into the past as Reverend Alexander Ferguson spends time on the island of Harris aster taking up his new position in the parish.
...more
Arielle Walker
I expected to really love this one, but instead after finishing I just felt a faint sort of "meh".
It deals with... well, a lot, but somehow you never feel at all connected to the characters, and the whole story somehow takes all the magic out of everything too. I found myself putting it down for weeks at a time and only reading a chapter or so before abandoning it again. Not badly written, just really not for me.
JSidelinger
Feb 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Blurb:
A mystery (with romantic overtone) told in parallel about present day Ruth who is emotionally damaged, and Alexander, a newly appointed vicar with a scientific background who lived in the late 1800s. Each has made Sea House their home, and the house has now yielded a secret from its past. Ruth embarks on her journey of discovery of the houses secrets that begins to unravel her own past and provides the catalyst towards healing.

Review:
I decided to read this book because I enjoy mysteries
...more
Paula Cappa
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Gee, this is a lovely writer; my first experience with Gifford's work. She has a fine sense of language, very pretty images and descriptions, and as I began the novel I felt like I was sinking into the mystical world of selkies and legends of mermaids. How exciting! A house by the sea, young marrieds Ruth and Michael, mysterious effectsall the makings of enchantment and suspense. But most of the novel is written as journal entries from Alexander Ferguson, the minister that previously lived in ...more
Almond
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book by chance, a random selection in a second hand bookshop. The title and notion of mermaids appealed to me, other than that I was not expecting too much. However, I am so pleased that this book found me. Such a haunting tale with depth and insight into the way of life, and troubles of the Scottish Islands in the 1800's. One of the best books I have read this year.
Hannah
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rsting Clarification: 4.5 Stars

A beautifully written book and engrossing tale. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute if it.
Stephen
Mar 21, 2014 rated it liked it
"The Sea House" is about the power of past events and forgotten people to influence lives in the present.

For her tale of interplay between what has happened and what will, author Elisabeth Gifford developed three voices.

There is the Reverend Ferguson, living in the late 19th century, who represents the English presence in Scotland while dramatizing the struggle to reconcile community mythologies with the cold, hard facts of science.

There is Moira, his servant at the parish, who stands for all
...more
Lucinda
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition



A haunting tale containing exquisite poignancy and delicacy, which lingers upon ones consciousness

This beautiful novel is an acutely arresting tale of lifes hidden mysteries and secrets, which touches upon the true meaning of life. Set within a lush historical backdrop, you are transported into the heart of the rugged harsh lands of Scotland, 1860. The time-difference between the past and modern-day adds a touch of realism, for you are able to connect deeper with the text as it is given a fresh
...more
Elise
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I felt the pull of the siren song as soon as I started reading the prologue of Elisabeth Gifford's "The Sea House," and it had me under its spell from beginning to end, so don't start reading this one during a busy week or work might just have to wait. Consider yourselves warned.

Gifford's writing is lyrical, beautiful, and arresting. In this story of how the mysteries of the past haunt the present, be prepared to fall in love with Ruth, Moira, and Alexander--the story's three alternating
...more
Marguerite Kaye
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I was wee, my Nana, from Lewis, used to tell me stories of Selkies and seal people. My Grandpa, a sea captain, told me stories of mermaids. These tales have always fascinated me, and along with my mum's stories of her childhood holidays spent on Lewis have coloured some of my own writing, so this book was right up my street.

I really enjoyed it. It had lots of things I love - a dual timeline, mythology, ghosts, tragedy and lots and lots of amazing, evocative island colour. As ever, I will
...more
Damaskcat
This sounded like my sort of book the past intermingled with the present but I found I couldnt really care about any of the characters to any great extent. Ruth and Michael buy an old manse on the Hebridean island of Harris in a state of disrepair intending to renovate it and turn it into a B&B. They find the skeleton of a baby with its legs fused together in a shape reminiscent of a mermaids tail buried under the floorboards.

The modern story of Ruth and Michael is alternated with the
...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
When Ruth and Michael move into the Sea House in the Hebrides they are finally realising their dream of opening a guest house and settling into their new home when the macabre discovery of a skeleton of a baby, legs fused like a mermaid, is found buried under the floor boards and disturbs Ruths peace of mind.

Ruth is determined to find out more about the baby and the trail soon leads to Reverend Alexander Ferguson who was a previous inhabitant of the house and also had a keen interest in
...more
Jayne Catherine pinkett
2.5* At first I was really enjoying this book. It focuses on the myths and legends of selkies in the Scottish Islands. It is based on present day and flips back to many centuries ago when a reverend in the area also has an interest in the stories. About half way
through it concentrated too much on the past narrative and for me it became repetitive and boring. The ending wasn't all that satisfying with some loose ends unresolved from the present day .
Sharon Terry
I really quite enjoyed this book, though I got frustrated with the switching from the past to the present. I found myself more interested in the story of Alexander Ferguson and his complex life than in the modern-day protagonists Ruth and Michael.

The young couple, Ruth and Michael, buy the "sea house", hoping to turn it into a guest house once they have completed renovations. This house was inhabited in the 1860s by a young, newly ordained minister, Alexander Ferguson, so it has a history of
...more
Sandra McKenna
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read

Elisabeth Gifford is another new writer for me, and I am so pleased that I discovered her, and her amazing story telling.
This dual timeline is set on the coast of the Outer Hebrides. In the 1990s Ruth and her husband Michael buy an old church manse which yields a buried secret while they are renovating. In the same house in the latter half of the 19th century, the Reverend Alexander Ferguson is researching the legend of the Selkies.
An incredible story weaving between the two
...more
Andrea
Jun 15, 2017 added it
This book had the makings of being fantastic and gripping...instead it was long and boring. There were a handful of great chapters and many, many more that just dragged for me. At times it was reminiscent of "The Museum of Extraordinary Things" and "The Book of Speculation" but it never achieved their greatness. I wanted more. A mer-child buried under a house could be spectacular. At the very least it did spark my interest in Selkies.
Kali Napier
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is similar to Anna Mazzola's The Story Keeper, and Sarah Moss's Night Waking, both books I enjoyed. However, Secrets of the Sea House offers something unique -- an explanation for Selkies / mermaids / Finnmen myths. It seemed totally plausible and the moment I finished the book I did a little Google searching to learn more -- always a sign of a good book.
Marleen
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story:

In 1992 Ruth and her husband Michael buy an old and dilapidated house on the Hebridean island of Harris intending to renovate it and turn it into a guesthouse. It isnt long after they start working on the house when they make a gruesome discovery. Underneath floorboards they find the old remains of a baby with its legs and feet fused together. It is a discovery that will awaken old memories for Ruth. Memories she has been trying to suppress for a long time; memories that can threaten
...more
Lynda
Interesting research about the legend of the Selkie however formulaic narrative and contrived plot.
Lucy Hounsom
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Secrets of the Sea House is an elegant and sophisticated tale of the ways in which lives interact and the strong skeins of memory that tie us to the past.

The narrative swings masterfully between 1860 and 1992, linking the nineteenth century PoV characters of Alexander and Moira with Ruth, who moves into the Sea House over a hundred years later. I was impressed with the ease of this dialogue; the chapters are interwoven beautifully and the pace at which the secrets of the books title are revealed
...more
Karin
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow! - I just finished this book and my mind is still up in Scotland. I really liked this book!

It's the story of Ruth & Michael who come to one of the Scottish isles to fix up an old house and start a B&B. Under one of the floors in the house they find the grave of a tiny little mermaid baby- a baby who was so undernourished that her legs fused together instead of developing normally. This baby haunts Ruth, who herself was left as a young child when her mother died, an apparent suicide.
...more
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“How strange it was to...watch her walk round the table and the chairs by the fire, pick up my shells from the shore along the mantelpiece, and smile at everything and examine it as if she were reading the story of my life in the intervening years. She ran her hand along the book spines on the shelves, stopping to greet an old friend as she took it down to read a little.” 1 likes
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