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The Sea House

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  436 Ratings  ·  58 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. Poring over Klaus's letters to Elsa, Lily pieces together the story of their lives. And alon ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Penguin UK (first published January 1st 2003)
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Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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."

Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this novel from page one through to the end. Although the many of the characters suffered greatly during WWII, they sought to live positive, hopeful and happy lives without bitterness. During the mid-century, a deaf and damaged artist, an renowned architect who had escaped Germany with his beloved wife, a children's psychoanalyst, and the strange and wonderful humans who populated the same seaside village in the early 21st century. I especially liked Esther Freud's skillful weaving of the ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, fiction, 2010
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.
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Mar 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was ok

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
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Desi personajele vin din lumi diferite, traiesc pe doua planuri diferite, autoarea reuseste sa le aduca in acelasi loc cu o deosebita maiestrie. Lily Brannan pleaca din agitatia marelui oras in care traia intr-un satuc de la malul marii, Steerborough, sperand sa gaseasca raspunsuri la multele ei intrebari legate de constructiile arhitectului Klaus Lehmann. Aceste raspunsuri aveau sa o ajute la finalizarea proiectului de la facultate. Cel putin asta
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, winter
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
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read more by Esther Freud as I'd loved her debut autobiographic novel "Hideous kinky", particularly the ambience and poetic style, and I was not disappointed in this novel: once again, Freud weaves her magic through her sensuous, graceful depiction of landscape, until in this present novel the landscape becomes the protagonist. I was hungry for this type of escapism and so I enjoyed this novel a great deal!
However, that is not to say that the book doesn't have its faults. The storie
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-goodreads
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
Mar 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 20, 2015 added it
A novel which starts off slow and, by all means, remains slow. The predominant theme here is of the transience, and yet endurance, of human affairs throughout history. The chronology falls into place very naturally – unravelling mysteries, back-stories and connections between past and present. Freud has a wonderful way of bringing you into the world of the artist, the dreamer, the ruralist. Avowed urbanites must appreciate Lily’s love for the quaint seaside town of Steerborough. Romantic tension ...more
Andrew McClarnon
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jan 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: england
2007 bookcrossing journal:

In some ways, nothing much happens in this story - you can feel the heat from the summer - and yet it doesn't drag or is boring - which is curious considering some of the books I've read that are full of plot but are a real drag to bother reading.

Set in the same village during two time periods, the book follows Lily (contemporary) researching an architect who once lived there and several Germans (past) including the architect and their time in the village. Gradually you
Aug 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, house
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?
Deborah Sowery-Quinn
two stories a woman leaves her boyfiend in london and takes a cottage in a small english village to work on her thesis about a famous architect who buit a home there - & the story of the architect & his wife, friends, past - letters from the architect to his wife move the story along - both stories - marital infidelity, long distance relationship, art, architecture -the author moves the reader between the two stories quite nicely & for the most part an enjoyable read
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well written, and engaging. It never slumps or plateaus. My only moment of feeling less than convinced was towards the end, where we discover who a certain rather shabby character is. That felt like a plot conceit and I don't think it added to the book. I was more interested in the modern day plot but the 1953 plot was charming too.
Jul 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 05, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I thought more would happen in the story. It's not a bad book, but I didn't find it compelling reading either. It was just kind of vague and meandered a bit. I chose it for the title and the cover art (which on my copy is a drawing of beach huts).
Jessica Anne
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
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
Catherine Allen
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed it, you can rely on Esther Freud for a great story, page_turning but well-paced and also interesting story themes. Recommended.
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, clever seamless plotting that told a story and went somewhere. Very evocative descriptions of the Suffolk coast.
Superb writer always worth reading.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book by Esther Freud I've completed, and it was another outstanding one. Again, like the last one, I found myself not being able to put it down. Another work based on historical events (World War II and the years following), each chapter alternated between the decades past and present with the characters mirroring each other's experiences and meshing in very similar ways as though some how they were connected in time. Suffolk sounds like an absolutely stunning place to visit, ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Read this as the house we were staying in on extended family holiday features in the novel. Started like many 'chick-lit' novels with young woman heads to countryside to find herself and consider future relationship... sigh, I thought... but it rapidly ramps up in plot and character complexity, and ends as the story of many people's lives over three generations. She's clearly a much better novelist than I thought - read hideous kinky so long ago that I can't remember it to be honest. This was th ...more
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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.
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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.” 10 likes
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