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

Beside the Sea

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  697 ratings  ·  156 reviews
A single mother takes her two sons on a trip to the seaside. They stay in a hotel, drink hot chocolate, and go to the funfair. She wants to protect them from an uncaring and uncomprehending world. She knows that it will be the last trip for her boys.

Beside the Sea is a haunting and thought-provoking story about how a mother's love for her children can be more dangerous tha
Paperback, 120 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Peirene Press Ltd (first published March 28th 2001)
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 Beside the Sea, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Beside the Sea

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  697 ratings  ·  156 reviews

Sort order
Ina Cawl
What does it mean to be a mother?

Does being able to have birth to Children means you have the right to have them?
How stable I mean ( mentally,financially) should the person be so that he could a baby?
Who determines who have the right to bring children to this world?
And if you had the child who determines you can keep your child, does the state have that right?or the social worker?
What does it mean to be so poor in developed state?
What does it mean to be single mother in today world is it? Is it
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

Whew! Not a great way to end the least from a feel good standpoint.

Veronique's Olmi's BESIDE THE SEA brings to life a very dark and intensely sad story so full of despair and hopelessness that makes me thankful it was a short 125 page read.

In this haunting look at mental illness, a mother decides to take her two young children on a bus trip to the seashore for a bit of a holiday, and with only a few coins in the tin and her medication left behind, the desperation in her lif

Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
We took the bus, the last bus of the evening, so no one would see us.

So begins this distressing and ominous tale of a single mother taking her two boys to the sea. We don’t know why they’re going, although soon enough we can guess because things seem more than a little off. They find a hotel and a café, and they go to the beach; the mother is barely functional throughout and almost incapacitated by depression, insomnia and anxiety. We view the world filtered through her paranoia and it’s an unbe
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Josh by: Mary
Shelves: 2016, high-five
5 star books are completely subjective and many people have their own criteria for what signifies a 5 star book. I don't have any specific criteria, honestly. Some feel like they are reading a work of genius, while the same work may feel menial to me. Some feel as if they are reading something redundant and a case of 'this has been done too many times' and give it a 2 or 3 and I still find that little something that puts me over that edge to give it a 4 or 5.

Olmi's words make you feel. It's all
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With the first line I was sucked in to her mind:
"We took the bus, the last bus of the evening, so no one would see us."
A mom and her two young boys. A spontaneous trip to the seaside. Disquiet. A bit ominous. What’s going on, mom? Mom is fraying, and has been for a while. There are only opaque hints of the backstory, of the life before this mini-holiday. It feels claustrophobic being here in her mind, there are two of us in here but it seems only one of us can see clearly. It’s clear this mom
Parastoo Ashtian
این جور چیزها همیشه به این معنی هستند که کارها خوب پیش نمیرود، که کارها به طور کلی خوب پیش نمیرود، که همه چیز از دست رفته است و اوضاع بدتر هم خواهد شد. چیز ترسناکی در انتظارم است و همهاش تقصیر من است. اشتباه کردم و حالا خیلی دیر است. سعی میکنم با این حس مبارزه کنم. سعی میکنم صدایی را در وجودم بیدار کنم که میگوید این طور نیست. هیچ چیزی قرار نیست من را بدرد. من هیچ اشتباه بزرگی نکردهام. فقط پرت و پلاهای بچگانه است. گافهای بیاهمیت که میتوانست خندهدار باشد. باید خندهدار میبود. کاری که از دستم برمیآی ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
فکر مثل جانور کوچک کثیفی است. بعضی وقت ها ترجیح می دهم سگ باشم. شرط می بندم سگ ها هیچ وقت نه با خودشان فکر می کنند کجا هستند، نه اینکه باید دنبال چه کسی بروند، فقط هوا را بو می کشند و همه ی این ها همان جا برای همیه ثبت شده است. انسان ها حس بویایی ندارند. همین خطرناک است.

عجیب است که هیچ وقت در خیابان مردم را در حال گریه و زاری نمی بینم. بیشتر از اینکه گریه کنند، با تلفن صحبت می کنند. شاید اگر بیشتر گریه می کردیم کمتر از همدیگر متنفر بودیم.


بهترین بغل کردن وقتی است که هنوز نوزاد در شکم است. هی
Roger Brunyate
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Be Warned!

This little book should have a consumer's warning. It is short, it is compelling, and it will take you to a place you never wanted to go. Not in a hundred years, especially if you are a parent or have ever struggled with depression.

I am a great admirer of the translations published by the Peirene Press. They are original in content and perfectly calibrated to their short-novella length. Sorbets between heavier courses. In this belief, I took a break between two of the large sections o
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
Just arrived from Sweden. A sweet gift from my dear friend Bettie.

The plot is quite similar to "Beloved" by Toni Morrison in a complete different context of course.

However, I still think it's hard to understand, in this particular book, the children's destiny stablished by their mother. To think about.
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A mother takes her two young sons on a trip to the seaside. Sounds nice, doesn't it? There's even a bucket and spade on the cover. You can almost feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the brass band playing a cheery tune. But this is not a nice little feel-good story about a trip to the sea. There's no sunshine, no brass bands, no sandcastles and laugher and sticks of rock. To get an idea of what this book is like, imagine that idyllic seaside trip viewed through a fun-house mirror - eve ...more
David Hebblethwaite
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the launch title of Peirene Press, a new publisher specialising in English translations of short European works. And what a book to begin with. Véronique Olmi’s Beside the Sea, first published in France in 2001, and now available in Adriana Hunter’s superlative translation, is the story of a single mother taking her two sons to a seaside town. But all is not as happy as it sounds. Here is how Beside the Sea begins:

We took the bus, the last bus of the evening, so no one would see us. The
Diane S ☔
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 This little novella certainly packed a punch. Still trying to figure out where I had heard about this little book, I must have read about it somewhere because it is not a book I would have just picked up. Well written, very sad but realistic. Poignant look at a mother's desperation and the lack of social services to help her. Will now go back to reading my book about murder and mayhem, ala Cordova style.
Claire McAlpine
A single mother of two boys wants to take them on a little holiday near the sea. That might sound simple enough, but it is a major life event and challenge for this mother, who suffers from some kind of mental affliction that requires her to take daily medication.

This trip is out of the ordinary and we experience it from inside the mind of the mother, the stream of consciousness narrative is so effective here, it gets inside your own mind as you read and we feel her sense of anxiety and the host
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-france, favorites
In sole 90 pagine Véronique Olmi riesce a farci penetrare nell'angoscia e nella disperazione di una madre mentalmente disturbata.
Il ritmo serrato, l'alternarsi di frasi lunghe con la punteggiatura ridotta al minimo e di frasi molto brevi ci lasciano senza fiato, ci sentiamo soffocare; percepiamo l'ansia e l'angoscia di questa madre.
Una madre sola decide di portare i suoi due figli, nove e cinque anni, al mare e partono di sera; è inverno, per tutto il racconto piove, fango sulle strade, mare in
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
In the hours since finishing I've realized that I need to bump this up to 5 stars.

Cannot sit at desk to compose reviews right now, but I'm promising myself I will catch up on some reviews this weekend.
Nurture Waratah
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, drama
Beside the Sea is a translation of a French book Bord de Mer, the first novel from acclaimed dramatist Véronque Olmi. First published in 2001, this novel has been translated into all major European languages. On the surface, this seems to be a sweet story about a mother taking her children on a trip to the seaside. However, digging a little deeper reveals a darker undercurrent. This is no joyful jaunt to sun, surf and sand. Instead, we discover a deeply disturbed mother, already on the edge, afr ...more
Jun 28, 2010 marked it as to-read
From Musings - 4.5 stars

From the opening sentence, I knew there was something different about this book: We took the bus, the last bus of the evening, so no one would see us. I was instantly intrigued and wary. Why would a mother and her two young sons want to leave home unnoticed? The bus takes them to a seaside town, to fulfill the mother’s wish that her boys see the ocean. The nameless mother provides the narrative, and the more I lived inside her head, the greater my fear and trepidation. It
Kathleen Jones
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant but disturbing book. This isn't a novel to read if you're depressed, but it's a book you should read. I found it disturbing and very moving. It was apparently a 'controversial' best-seller in France. Narrated in the first person, vernacular, it's the story of a young, single mother, who is struggling to cope - with her two little boys, with her own mental health, social workers, teachers, and inadequate money. We are totally inside her world and her head. It makes gut-wrenching readi ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shawn
Shelves: euro, fiction, haunting
This beautiful little book gutted me. Veronique Olmi is a successful French playwright, and Beside the Sea is her first novel. The story is narrated by an unnamed mentally unstable woman, who barely manages to make it through the day, struggling with depression, insomnia, meds, poverty, a broken collarbone, exhaustion, chemical imbalance, and above all else, the crushing responsibility she bears for her two little innocent sons, aged 5 (Kevin) and 9 (Stan). Olmi eloquently describes the gut-wren ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
An unnamed woman is the narrator. She has mental health issues, has difficulties facing people, is terrified about dealing with life and what will happen with her two young children as they grow up and they too have to face the world.
It is a depressing story. They are poor and malnourished. She is being assessed for being unable to properly care for her children. She takes a night bus to a seaside town. The bus is cold and old. It rains at the coast, the sea is frothing with anger. They stay on
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Endeavor to breathe through this one. My initial reaction was to give this 4 stars, but the only reason I could find for not giving it 5 is the very reason it deserved it -- it is hauntingly, searingly, heartbreaking.
Extremely raw. Beautifully written, beautifully told. Arguably one of the most clearly drawn, nameless, first person narrators in the history of fiction. Not an ounce of pain is lost in translation.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated
A schizophrenic woman takes her two boys to the sea for one last time. Even knowing from the back cover that this book would have a devastating end, it is the journey that intrigued me. To see her crumbling thoughts and emotions that got her there. It is a very sad and tragic book, but a powerfully engaging journey. In the beginning the punctuation was driving me to distraction - but once I got past that, it was sad and powerful.
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it
A window into the mind of a tortured soul:
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to read this in the original French but I have not been able to find a copy so I succumbed to the English translation. I am definitely going to want to read this in French when I can. It is so powerful; so haunting; and so extremely sad.
A splendid short read about a mother who desperately wants to protect her kids from the world.

I really enjoyed this book. It's an observational story told from the point of view of the mother. A mother who has her own battles. Dealing with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and probably schizophrenia while also doing her best to raise her 2 sons. She is alone in the world. She has no one and feels as if everyone is out to get her.

It's a story that grimly reveals the struggle to live life. The s
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is a nice seaside story, one of “sea change” tales of endless blue skies, soft sands, rolling waves, romance and finding one’s self in a new open environment. There are family seaside snacks, local fairs, sand castles and waves but not as you’d expect. For starters there is no sunshine; the weather is grim from the start, with incessant rain:

The next day was really bad luck, it was raining again. Apart from the dim morning light it was hard not get
Marina Sofia
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Completely shattered after reading this - and yet I could not set it aside. Yes, a difficult read, especially if you are a mother of two boys yourself, but it exerted a powerful fascination. A language at once simple, unadorned, conversational and yet poetic. The back story is merely hinted at, never overtly stated. You are never in any doubt about the outcome (plus it has been so publicised that I think everyone knows about it without even reading the book).
But it is remarkable for showing how
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-or-blagged
Heart-wrenching. The first person narrative of this story of a young woman unable to cope with life, let alone taking care of her children gives it a real immediacy. You are completely absorbed by her inner monologue as she tries to face the world when she takes her two boys to see the sea for the first time, how almost every small challenge defeats her and her fractured attempts at coping as the tale hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion.
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is suffocating, haunting, and quietly terrifying. It's about madness and motherhood and a fine, fine read. Review forthcoming!
Natalie (CuriousReader)
Beside the Sea is the story of a mother and her two sons, off on a trip to a small unremarkable town located near the sea. As the book opens, we can see hints at the mother having suffered from something or someone; has she gone through some psychosis that is still shaping her actions and being, has she been the victim of domestic abuse? It’s never explicitly said, although the frequent references to both social workers and psychiatrist meetings confirms that something has gone wrong in this wom ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: Beside the Sea - Véronique Olmi - Cheryl 2 28 Aug 31, 2016 12:15AM  
#supporttranslate...: IFRG read June 2013 5 4 Jun 08, 2013 06:18AM  
  • Stone in a Landslide
  • The Brothers
  • Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman
  • Das Muschelessen
  • London Lies Beneath
  • Chasing the King of Hearts
  • Next World Novella
  • Hôtel Splendid (European Women Writers)
  • Herra Darwinin puutarhuri
  • The Polish Complex
  • Ten Stories about Smoking
  • The Ridge (Amanzimtoti, #1)
  • Livealbum
  • The Murder of Halland
  • Stone Upon Stone
  • Grace
  • The Nightwatchman's Occurrence Book: And Other Comic Inventions
  • This Is the Garden
Véronique Olmi is a French playwright and novelist. She won the Prix Alain-Fournier emerging artist award for her 2001 novella Bord de Mer. It has since been translated into several European languages. Olmi has published a dozen plays and half a dozen novels.

(from Wikipedia)
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »