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The Sea and the Silence

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  497 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A book for your head and your heart.

A powerful novel from one of Ireland's best writers on the turbulent birth of a nation, and the lovers it divides.

Ireland 1945. Young and beautiful, Iz begins a life on the south-east coast with her new husband. As she settles in to try and make her life by the ever restless sea, circumstances that have brought Iz to the town of
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by GemmaMedia (first published May 22nd 2009)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  497 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
"What you ought to be reading"
"You think of yourself as a moderately well-read person. And then you come across a book so brilliant, so moving, so enchanting, by an author you had not even heard of, and your world is henceforth altered. You feel a bit like John Keats when he came across a translation of Homer that knocked him out: "Then felt I like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken."
For me, that new planet is "The Sea and the Silence," a new novel by Irish writer
Very much a book of two parts. The first half was written in a very distant manner. Everything was observed rather than participated in. As a reader I did not feel very engaged and I didn't really care about the characters.

The second half was completely diferent. The characters were well fleshed out and diverse. The drew the reader in and was exciting and emotionally engaging.

Once I'd read the book I understand why the author had written it the way he did, but I couldn't help but feel he could
Kristen C
I keep wavering between 3 and 4 stars, so I'm going to split the difference and go 3.5. Here's the thing. I give it props for its prose, it's characters, the storyline and the setting. The author does a great job of drawing you in and telling a poignant story. I have of course heard of the IRA but didn't know much about the conflicts, and thanks to the author's extensive research, I feel like I have at least a small grasp of the subject. That being said, I'm just one of those people that likes ...more
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read many books set around WWII, about loves lost or separated because of the political or physical nature of war, but never one set in Ireland. The setting alone brings to light a different set of national and cultural circumstances even though some ideas, themes, and conflicts transcend time, space and culture. While the overall format or structure of this book is not unique, the voice and manner of writing is both unique and refreshing. Descriptions were poetically given without being ...more
This novel opens as an attorney is settling the affairs of a recently deceased client. She has left two envelopes, requesting that he open and read the contents and then destroy them. One bears the name of her son, "Hector," and the other "Iz"--the nickname of Ismay, the deceased. The setting is Ireland, starting in the early 1940s and working through several decades. Ireland is staying out of the war on the Continent, but many of the Anglo-Irish young men are signing up for service in the ...more
Beckie Clarke
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great book that I got while it was available as a free download (thank you!). Although it has mixed reviews here on Goodreads, the description caught my attention.

I love history, I definitely love Ireland, and, of course, I love lovers. And, as you see, the description goes on to call the book "an epic love story." So I was excited to read it despite the fact that people seem rather divided by either loving it or hating it.

I am one of those who loved it, but I didn't love it until I
Patricia O'Sullivan
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I was caught up in, I dimly understood, was the embodiment of history

Ismay Sestons world is changing. The Great War rages in Europe and, even though Ireland remains neutral, there is no neutrality for the Anglo-Irish who exist between two cultures, despised by both. But Ismay has the optimism of youth and beauty, ready to choose love over family, heritage and politics. However, history, like the sea, does not discriminate in its tendency to crush, saturate, and drown. Ismay finds that
Nov 30, 2013 rated it liked it
The first half of this book is coldly and factually recounted in first person by Iz as if she had lost all emotion in marriage to Ronnie and as if her son never developed any personality that she could tell us about. The family lives in a lighthouse by the sea. The only thing that seems to speak to Iz is the changing motion of the sea. This segment was so cold, I almost quit reading. I kept on however in order to find out why the book had gotten a prize.

The second half of the book was the tale
The Sea and The Silence (kindle) by Peter Cunningham. The heroine has just died and has given her solicitor two volumes to read, after which he is to destroy. Britain and Ireland are changing, and in 1950, the changing scenario became really apparent to Iz, the heroine. Under pressure for alot of things, she chooses to follow her own way and does so. Each of the books says alot both of her own history, the history of her husband and the history of Ireland in general during her adult lifetime. I ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I saw this book on Bookbub. It was an interesting but predictable romance story. The setting, Ireland, and the time and politics kept it interesting. Not a waste of time. A decent summer read but no great shakes.

The book begins in the middle of the main character's life. Actually, after she dies. Her solicitor is given two documents in which she tells him her story. The first document features her son. The second her love and her life as a young and beautiful girl. Aren't they all beautiful?

Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Rec'd this book free from author. The first part of the book is just okay and did hold my interest. The second part, IZ, really held my interest. In fact, when I was finished with the book, I started from the beginning and reread the first chapter to make sure what I thought was true. Ends with a bang! Read in one day and enjoyed. Would recommend for easy reading.
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent read! It's the first I've read about the "land agitators" in Ireland, very interesting. The story is seamless and written with such clarity and description that I found myself in Ireland in the mid 1940's as well as feeling the tremendous heartbreak of loss and the pain of deception.
Kristen Jones
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really hated this book. I'm giving it two stars however because the writing is not bad - I just didn't like the story. I didn't like Iz as a character, I didn't like the murder,senseless deaths, and domestic violence, and most importantly I can't figure out why this book was written. It's not a strong woman overcoming obstacles, it's not something we can learn from, or grow from, or see from another point of view, it's just it is an unending litany of miseries for a single person. Also, I have ...more
Jane Gomez
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unexpectedly Great!

From the beginning of this book I held no great expectations because I had not heard of it before. There was no hype surrounding it. It was a delightful surprise - once I got started, I could not put the book down. It thoroughly held my interest and was a favorite that will live in my minds eye for years. Rather like TV series such as A PLACE TO CALL HOME and a little bit like DOWNTON ABBEY.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure about this book. The first half of the book was in the present. Half way through we abruptly switched to years ago and what lead up to the current. I understand, but as the author I would not have made that decision. It just didn't feel right. Chopped? Ruined the flow? Not as dramatic, revealing and effective as hoped. I might have traveled back and forth in time throughout the whole story as much as that can be annoying. But an emotional, good read.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot. The first section made me like Ismay and the second section helped me understand her.
And a good dose of modern Irish history helped, too.
Another time, another place. For Iz, marriage means a new life in a lighthouse on the coast. It means a small town and fitting into another family rather than starting from scratch. It means the heady rush of youth, two still-young people in a still-new relationship. And then, eventually, it means much more: it means the unravelling of that relationship, and of what Iz thought was true and would bring her happiness.

The first half of the story covers a number of years, but it's the second half of
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Irish culture

This story reads in two parts. It contains historical perspectives and personal strife. The writing is well done and engaging. I enjoyed it.
Kathleen Valentine
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
The genius of this clever little novel is in its structure. Cunningham was a positive genius to come up with this and, since reading it, I can't help but think how other novels I have loved could have been done in the same way. My only problem with the story was the formatting style. Instead of using traditional quotation marks, there was an em-dash preceding all bits of dialog but none following it. Thus, unless there was an attribution like he said or she whispered I was never really sure what ...more
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
When I began this book, I wasnt quite sure what to make of it. Its written as a two-part story, the first part consisting of Izs life after what transpires in the second part of the book (clear as mud?). But really, what an amazing book! I really do love a good story that sucks me in, and Peter Cunningham cashed in on that!

If you have ever experienced heartbreak and bitterness through betrayal and loss, then you start to understand some of what shapes Izs life, as she begins it in a beautiful
Nov 22, 2016 rated it liked it
The Sea and the Silence is a read for a time when you want a slower pace and want a story which leaves you with an emotional memory. Peter Cunningham has written very carefully, and beautifully, a story of a strong willed lady during a time of tumult in her family home, her personal life, and the country in which she lives.
The main character is Ismay, or Iz as she is affectionately known among her family and friends. At the beginning, her solicitor is going over the instructions of her will. As
Garth Mailman
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Set on the coastline of the Irish Sea among Anglo-Irish Catholics at home neither in Ireland nor England. People who send their progeny to private English Boarding Schools ensuring their continued alienation in the land of their birth. Told from a womans point of view Iz marries a man who proves to be a neer do well who philanders on the side. Irish tempers, red hair and freckles, pubs, priests, fishing, and country estates figure large in the storyline.

Around the halfway point after a
Lydia Presley
Apr 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, ireland, 2010, arc
I'm kind of in the middle on this book. The story was somewhat engaging but the characters were difficult to understand and get to know.

The Sea and the Silence is a story about Iz, a young woman who once knew love and her experiences in life as she grows older and deals with war issues, family issues and marriage issues.

The writing style was.. odd, and made reading the book harder then it should have been. Peter Cunningham chose to write his dialogue proceeded by a dash instead of using
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I snuck this in before those I claim to be reading right now, after reading first a review of the French translation in our local paper, where it is one of 10 books in a reader's ''contest"., and then the GR comments where the only negative reviews are those that probably always have problems with any fragmenting of narrative time and viewpoint, things I relish. Then I found it on Kindle, since there's not likely to be a bookstore with English books out here, though they'd surely have the French ...more
Anne-Marie Scully
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Sea and the Silence is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. While not being overly descriptive the author describes the landscape of Monument, the town where the book is set, so vividly and with so much tenderness and love, as though it was also a character in the book. There is not a word nor a sentence in this book that is not perfect.
Iz, the female heroine of the book, captured me from the first page. Described by the author as 'young and beautiful' you just get a
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
Oh my! This is not what I'd expected! The reviews seem so mixed and many have spoken about the format and confusion and at the last minute I almost didn't read it. How sad my life would have been had I not. This is an absolutely wonderful book and I didn't have any problems with the different structure or the order of the story. It all made perfect sense, especially at the end. I think one reviewer said that you don't realize how good this is until you read the last page and there is some truth ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of THE SEA AND THE SILENCE from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Ireland in the 40's - a time of civil unrest and changing ideas. Ismay (Iz) Seston, born into privilege, comes of age in the tumult. The story takes off in picturesque Monument, showcasing Iz and her family's journey from marriage through the twilight of their lives. In the second half of the novel, author Cunningham flashes back to how Iz grew up, and what circumstances shaped her life.

At first I
I was all set to give this book 2 stars at the half-way point - decent writing, but the story was just not very interesting to me. The second part was much more interesting! The setting (Ireland in the 1940s) was not my usual thing so I found much that was new to me - for example, I had never really thought about the Anglo-Irish (didn't even know there was such a term!). As a Bostonian, I grew up being aware of the troubles in Ireland but being neither Irish nor religious, it was a distant thing ...more
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Peter Cunningham is an award winning Irish novelist.

He is best known for the historical novels The Sea And The Silence, Tapes Of The River Delta, Consequences Of The Heart and Love In One Edition, which chronicle the lives of local families during the twentieth century, in Monument, the fictional version of Waterford in south-east Ireland, where Cunningham grew up.

His novel, The Taoiseach, which

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