About the book:
Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naive and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together --- a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? Ruth needs to solve the mystery of her new home --- but the answers to her questions may lie in her own past.
Based on a real nineteenth-century letter to The Times in which a Scottish clergyman claimed to have seen a mermaid, The Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love, hope and redemption, and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.
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My thoughts: I was intrigued by the idea of a mermaid baby having her remains buried under a house where a reverend lived. From the discovery of the bones Ruth begins to delve into the history of the house she and her husband are working hard to make a home and business, while trying to ignore her own history and unhappy childhood. The chapters alternate between Ruth in her present, during the 1990's to Alexander and his rescued housemaid Moira in the 1860's. At the same time, Ruth also looks back at her own years growing up and how she got through growing up an orphan.
Scotland has intrigued me for years and I love stories set there, but I don't often get a chance to read ones set in the islands. Seeing what life was like and how the poor were relocated and forced to board ships to Canada reminded me of the forced relocation of other groups of people, like the Native Americans, because someone with more money and power wanted the better land.
Many people have obstacles in their path to happiness, some huge and external and some huge and internal, and many of these characters had to overcome bleak circumstances. Seeing how some made it and others didn't really makes it apparent that attitude and a willingness to look for answers are both needed.
I loved the stories about mermaids and Selkies and the possible explanation for what people were seeing when they believed they were seeing the two.
About the Author:
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She is the author of The House of Hope: A Story of God's Love and Provision for the Abandoned Orphans of China and has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.