Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Winter Sea
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: 2008, Allison & Busby
Category: Fiction
Rating: 9/10

I have been looking forward to this book for ages! It has sadly not been published in the US; I ordered my copy from Amazon UK and the American dollar being what it is right now I had to pay a pretty penny for it. But it was so completely worth it. And ask anybody, I'm a terrible pinchpenny. ;)

Carrie McClelland is a historical novelist struggling with a new book about the attempted Jacobite invasion of Scotland in 1708. She had originally intended to set the book in France (where James Stewart was living), but while in Scotland visiting her agent she sees Slains Castle, a stark and beautiful ruin on the western coast, and feels an immediate connection with the place. She knows that she has to set her story there and decides to name her heroine Sophia Paterson, after one of her own ancestors who lived in the same time period. In Carrie's book, we see Sophia as she arrives at Slains Castle, which becomes the center point for the invasion. Lots of political plotting going on, and lots of Scottish rebels coming and going -- including one who steals Sophia's heart. Carrie is amazed by how well the story flows. But as she turns to researching the historical facts of her book, she realizes that she's writing the story exactly as it really happened -- without knowing the history first. She begins to think she must have her ancestor's memories.

This is a gentle, quiet kind of book. Kearsley does a good job of drawing out the suspense (both of Sophia's seemingly doomed romance and Carrie's reaction to her discovery that she's apparently a conduit for her ancestor's story), but it's definitely not a nail-biting kind of story. Which suits me just wonderfully. The settings are so vivid and the characters so interesting that I was perfectly content to float along through the story.

The narrative alternates between Carrie in the present and Sophia in the past, with the two storylines faintly paralleling each other. Sometimes this set-up bothers me, as I generally care more about one story than the other. But like Rosario said in her review, as I was reading about Carrie I wanted to stay with her, but then when I was reading about Sophia I wanted more of her. I loved hearing both stories and they worked together really well.

And there is just some lovely, lovely writing.
On Tuesday night, the last night that I spent in France, I dreamt of Slains. I woke, still in my dream, to hear the roaring of the sea beneath my windows and the wind that raged against the walls until the air within the room bit cold against my skin. The fire was failing on the hearth, small licks of dying flame that cast half-hearted shadows on the floorboards and gave little light to see by.
'Let it be,' a man's voice mumbled, low, against my neck. 'We will have warmth enough.' And then his arm came round me, solid, safe, and drew me firmly back against the shelter of his chest, and I felt peace, and turned my face against the pillow, and slept.
I've enjoyed all of the Kearsley books I've read, but this one definitely stands out as a favorite. It's got the interesting historical aspects that I loved in Mariana and the wonderful setting from The Shadowy Horses. And it's a little heavier on the romance than some of hers (you all know how I adore a love story). Well, Sophia's love story is very romantic -- it made me do plenty of happy sighs. :)

**The Winter Sea is being released in Canada in May.

EDITED TO ADD: this nifty book trailer. It contains photos of Slains Castle, where the book is set.


Unknown said...

This book looks good. I want to read her. What other book of hers would you recommend, Jennie? I own a few.


Jennie said...

Hi Keishon--My favorites (besides this one) are The Shadowy Horses (I just re-read that one) and Mariana. Both both have the same sort of feel as The Winter Sea. I highly recommend them. :)

Unknown said...

Ok, I have Mariana. Will be one of my TBR Day reads for sure. Thanks!
BTW, Love the Mary Stewart fan site!


Rosario said...

Oh, excellent review. I, too, love the quiet, gentle suspense which still manages to be suspenseful. I don't know that her style is for everyone, but it's perfect for me!

Mary Stewart fansite? Have to check that out!

Unknown said...

I just ordered this Jennie. I look forward to reading it. It sounds really, really good. Again, thanks for reviewing this book.


Jennie said...

Rosario--Yeah, I imagine some people who are used to thrillers (or romance readers who are used to more straightforward romance) might not be as wowed by this as you and me. But I just thought it was lovely. :)

Keishon--Yay! I hope you like it!