Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The House by the Sea” as Want to Read:
The House by the Sea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The House by the Sea

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  763 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Here she found the peace and aloneness she sought—and partly feared. The journal records the renewing of her life and work in this place.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1977)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The House by the Sea, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The House by the Sea

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Rebecca Foster
This is the sixth of Sarton’s journals I’ve read. It covers 1975–6, when she was 63–4 and in her second year in Maine. Her health is not yet a worry, at least as compared to later journals, but there is a faint sense of diminished abilities and an awareness of death’s approach. Poetry has run dry for her, but in the course of writing this journal she publishes a series of biographical reflections and prepares to begin a new novel. Tamas the dog and Bramble the cat are faithful companions, but sh ...more
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
One of our fabulous postal book club books that I read almost a year ago and now can write about since it has made the rounds.

This book could also be titled "The Spinster" as the entire time she lives alone with her dog and cat in a lovely house by the sea in New England. I guess it's the city girl in me, but as much as I loved the beauty, I wanted more people. More action for her life. Friends! Cities! Bars! That is me projecting of course, and I have much to learn from May. She has learned how
Tiffany Reisz
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved it. I could read May Sarton's writing journals forever. It does amuse me, however, that when she was 63-64, she was obsessed by her own death which she felt would happen any day now although she was fairly healthy. She lived for twenty more years after this journal was published. She also fretted about the lose of her talent in her "old age" and yet the journal is beautifully written, edgy and powerful. Maybe she couldn't write her poems anymore but her talent simply found a new outlet in ...more
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Read this with a couple of friends from the Book Nook Café, as May Sarton’s journals (not necessarily her poetry) have been recommended to me before for a bit of musing. This is not a book best read quickly. Here’s a conglomeration of some of the comments I made in our discussion thread as I was reading through the book:

I noted it in the previous book we read, but Sarton never really writes about the events, just about her solitude. And how she's married to it. This book is much the same. And I
Jean Potuchek
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This is my favorite of May Sarton's journals, and I have read it many times over. In part, this book reflects my own experience of falling madly in love with living in Maine. I love her luminous descriptions of the Maine light in all its seasons. This book also resonates for me because it was written during a period of happiness in her life and resonates with the joy that I experience in living alone.
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
"In 1973, May Sarton moved from the inland New Hampshire home which had been the scene of the creative and inner life she so powerfully probed in both Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude. She went then to a house on the seacoast of Maine. It was a place that was alone in all but a few months in summer, with the sea and the woods, and a wide sky ever present.

"At first, the peace of this place and the escape from the personal anguish she had come to associate with her New Hampshire home
James Lee
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The House By The Sea: A Journal, A Personal Review

Read twice with 30 years between reading changes a person’s appreciative perspective on a work. My recent “re-read of May Sarton’s journal, The House By The Sea was a deeper and broader experience for me in contradistinction to three decades ago. I experienced it as a beautifully written journal, weaving Sarton’s life and thoughts on human experiences as diverse as Feminism, Woman-as-Writer, Solitude, Academia, and Civilization into rich daily m
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read May Sarton for inspiration in writing, and her journal here was no exception. What I liked about this journal was that she can be introspective and self-reflective while still being centered in her descriptions and observations. There is a balance to her writing that I find refreshing. Her journal demonstrates her thinking in a very matter of fact way- perhaps she is unromantic and yet at the same time poetic- a very appetizing way to approach experiential documentation.
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, favorites
This book set me to dreaming of living alone by the sea. As I read this journal, I felt as if I was there.
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
It seems I can never get enough of May Sarton's musings on writing, aging and daily life. Here are a few gems from the book:

"It is essential that true joys be experienced, that the sunrise not leave us unmoved..."

"The sixties are marvelous years, because one has become fully oneself by then."

"The whole point of a journal is this seizing events on the wing. Yet the substance will not come from narration but from the examination of experience, and an attempt, at least, to reduce it to essence."

This book was given to me by Rosemary, one of the owners of the secondhand bookstore I frequent. It is the first book by May Sarton I have read and I enjoyed it. I think Rosemary gave it to me because the author is dealing with dementia of a loved one, and I have been discussing with Rosemary my mother's dementia.

So many passages in this book I want to write out in my journal, but strangely enough most of them NOT having anything to do with dementia.
Linda LaBell
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Liked this as well as the other 2 journals I've read by Sarton. Her house by the the sea sounds like a retreat with it's sweeping views of the ocean and all the flower beds and pastures leading down to the shore. Having grown up in New England I can really visualize the people, places, foods and events she writes about. As a psychologist, I love reading her inner musings.
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book about the day to day life of this wonderful poet as she lives on her own terms and on in solitude in a new place. The fears she faces and the descriptions of her gardens and her work give a wonderful insight but best of all...they take the reader out of their own "space" out of their own "fears" and the thoughts of mortality that stalk every single person on the planet.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Beautifully written, great language. But it was very slow and entirely reflective. Good for when one's in the mood for the genre, but otherwise I'd recommend breaking it up with a faster-paced book. The author also seems a little self-concerned, but that's partly the nature of autobiography. She complains often and is very sensitive, so for some readers, her personality may quickly be wearing. On the other hand, she's intuitive, and you get a great sense of her.

Sarton gives a few references to p
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love reading Sarton's journals. Interesting in her last entry, she mentioned she was writing this for publication, so I wondered whether she would have written differently if it was just for her; that's how I read it, a journal that eventually got published. Enjoyed her comments regarding the weather (and I thought we were suffering from global warming now!) and the occasional notes on politics. I found it interesting, though, that she celebrated her 64th birthday toward the end, which meant s ...more
Susan Stewart
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love all of May Sarton's journals. I will say, though, that if you like books with lots of action and dialog, this won't be for you. Sarton (1912 - 1995) was a solitary person with a deep appreciation for the sea and her gardens. I think nothing pleased her more than a basketful of blooms brought into the house. She had a long-term relationship with a woman named Judy but they seldom lived together. People exhausted her; solitude invigorated her.

She wrote: "Loneliness is the poverty of self;
Jul 05, 2008 rated it liked it
This one was slower going than Journal of a Solitude was for me, with much of the "action" consisting of detailed description of her surroundings as the seasons change. A scorecard would've been helpful as entries focus on persons in her present, recent past, and youth; sure, she knew who she was talking about, but for this outsider it wasn't always so clear.
I remain a great fan of her journals, but (to make a food analogy) this one was "rich", so it'll be a bit before I tackle the next one.
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
This felt like a hybrid: part journal, part bio. A journal I would expect to be more revealing, but I felt little connection with Sarton and her travails. I'm not entirely sure what her travails were even. I'm not a biography or a memoir fan, and reading someone's journal seems intrusive, but since nothing momentous was revealed, I felt less intrusive. Still, I expected to find out more about Sarton than I did. I guess her self is really in her poetry and novels, not in her journal.
A book club s
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Sarton's journals are daring, because she is vulnerable in them, sharing her foibles and her fears, her anger and her sorrow, as well as lyrical moments, joys, and insights. Her wrestling with solitude and loneliness - the former a blessing, the latter a curse - is one that those who have followed the path of solitude know well. Because so many friends die in the span of this journal, and because of her own health challenges and those of people she deeply loves, sorrow in _The House By the Sea_ ...more
 Barb Bailey
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book had a great beginning and ending...the first 69 pages or so were very good then she became boring for awhile.......then the last 50 or so pages were great. May Sarton is an author of books and poetry. She is rather self indulgent and very protective and ungenerous of her time. I thgought I'd give this book a higher rating as iI usually love journals and diaries but 4 is really the very best I can do on this one. I'm wondering wether or not I would like her poetry......will have to chec ...more
If there's such thing as heroine in my life surely May Sarton will be one of them. Not for what she did, who she was, but for writing these journals giving a peek to a way of life spent in solitude. Fulfilled and as a whole peaceful. A glimpse of a person growing old, the frustation, fear but also contentment of growing more and more to "the real self". What kind of person will I become?

4.5 stars
Barbara Shine
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Ms. Sarton's constant awareness of the beauty around her is inspiring. As someone not a flower person, though, I sometimes skipped her effusions about the gardens. And as a 68-year-old reader I was uncomfortable with her focus on her much older friends and her bit of fatalism. Her family-like relationship with her pets was calming to read. May Sarton was only 60 when she moved to the house by the sea and started this journal, yet she seems to perceive herself as much older.
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I recommended this for my women's book club title this month and was facilitator last night for the discussion. Only one other person had read the book before so it was quite fascinating to hear feedback about Sarton from those not familiar with her life and writings. It's so true that New Englanders, even those of us transplanted to other places, love to talk about weather. Sarton was a complex woman and had high standards for herself.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Making my way through all of May Sarton's journals (not in any order at all) and enjoyed this journal of her 63rd year immensely, though not quite as much as my current favorite, Journal of a Solitude, which was the 2nd one I read. So much of interest in this book, from her own thinking and language, to the ways that she introduces me to other poets and thinkers through her engagement with them.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
There's just something about about May Sarton's view of everyday life that I resonates with me. I so enjoy this journal of her writing, friendships, garden, growing old, pets and home by the sea in Maine, There is depth to her literary world and that of her friends I think we don't have these days.
Mary Jane
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't think I would have liked this when I was younger but Sarton's musings on living by the sea, aging, writing and finding time for writing, gardening were all pretty interesting to me. The most interesting revelation was how she struggled with feeling interrupted in her writing, finding time to write --when she had no other 'job'! If anyone has a house in Maine to lend me, let me know!
Apr 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Written in 1974, a journal covering Sarton's years at her home on the coast of Maine. Her intellectual illumination kept me interested but was her immersion in her garden that captivated. I had not read Sarton for many years. Her writing is intriguing, charming and calming.
Tanya b
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Absolutely LOVE May Sarton. Of course, she's not for everyone and I find her appealing for her journaling on topics such as solitude, writing, aging and the elderly and her hot-tempered reactions to her audience. She can be very sentimental which I relate to but can be irritating to others.
Claudia Douris
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is the second journal of May Sarton that I have read. Her creative passion for the written word and life are beautifully crafted. I devoured every word! This is a memoir to be pondered, savored, loved for the sheer beauty of the mind and spirit that inform it. This is indeed a RADIANT Book!
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
I appreciate her for articulating that living alone can be a joyful, satisfying, desirable state for some women. But otherwise this is a bit aimless and dull with occasional bits of interesting insight, peppered with dated liberal outrage.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • May Sarton: A Biography
  • An Unknown Woman
  • Daybook: The Journal of an Artist
  • The Stillmeadow Road (Stillmeadow Series, #7)
  • Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
  • Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters
  • Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal
  • Flying
  • Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (The Crosswicks Journal, #4)
  • Merry Hall
  • The Journal Keeper: A Memoir
  • A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897-1909
  • An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork
  • The Measure of My Days
  • One Writer's Beginnings
  • Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life
  • Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton
  • A New Kind of Country
May Sarton was born on May 3, 1912, in Wondelgem, Belgium, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938. An accomplished memoirist, Sarton boldly came out as a lesbian in her 1965 book Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Her later memoir, Journal of a Solitude, was an account of h ...more
More about May Sarton...
“it is essential that true joys be experienced, that the sunrise not leave us unmoved, for civilization depends on the true joys, all those that have nothing to do with money or affluence—nature, the arts, human love.” 4 likes
More quotes…