Book Review : The Winter Sea
By Susanna Kearsley
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her.… (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I would have written the summary differently. I’m not so sure that the knowledge comes ‘close to destroying her’, perhaps just keeps her from a regular sleep schedule and occasional questions of her own sanity.
The Winter Sea is the first Susanna Kearsley novel I have read and I enjoyed it immensely. It appears she frequently employs a literary device of moving between the past and present with a semi-supernatural connection. In this instance, the character Carrie, who is an author, is conducting research for an historical novel centered on the Jacobians machinations to return King James to his throne. While stymied for a voice to pull the novel together, Carrie is prompted to introduce a female character – who is inspired by her own ancestress – as a method for unity and flow. Carrie believes she must be carrying an ancestral memory because of the uncanny ability to write smoothly and an inexplicable number of details she writes accurately without historical reference. Carrie’s father is also an amateur genealogist and helps dig out facts which in turn confirm Carrie’s intuitive historical finds.
Kearsley employed a teeter-totter effect in this novel. The initial scenes are heavy on Carrie and the current happenings with just a dash of Sophia and the Jacobians. Later in the novel, the majority of the writing is spent on Sophia, and Carrie and Graham have but a few cameo appearances. This was a good balance and followed my level of interest in the two story lines. At the end of the book everything is tied up in a neat package. I prefer a bit of ambiguity because real life rarely has all loose ends solved. When everything is resolved in a book it makes it predictable.
Even more than historical fiction, The Winter Sea could be classified as historical romance. The love scenes are done in a tasteful way rather than tawdry. If you’re looking for a bodice ripper, this is the wrong book. Three romances (two included love triangles) could have been overwhelming. Because the romances were in different time periods, and one romance was not on center stage, it was fun and I felt vested in all the characters. I also liked how the love triangles were handled; they were not the dramatic teen novel style of romance – thankfully. So even though I said it is more of romance Kearsley does a solid job on her research and writing of the events of the early 1700’s. I love it when a novel adheres to historical facts whenever possible. It’s rather ironic that Carrie, the character, insists on sticking with facts in her book too. Perhaps, this is a reflection of the actual author. As with any good romance, even in the winter sea there is hope of a coming spring.
A few quotes:
“Having lunch at the Kilmarnock Arms, I decided, would give me a similar chance to commune with the ghost of Bram Stoker….all the walls, except the stone one at the far end, had been papered in a softly patterned yellow that, together with the windows and the daylight, gave the place a cheerful ambiance, not dark at all. No vampires here.” (p. 50-51)
“She recalled her father saying,’Men who watch, and say but little, very often are much wiser than the men they serve.’ She had a feeling that, in this man’s case, it might be true.” (p. 137)
“‘Tis but the way of things, and when ye have grown older, lass, as I have, ye may even come to welcome it.’
‘To welcome winter?’
‘Aye.’ He had not moved, and yet she feel his voice like and embrace, an arm of comfort round her shoulders. ‘For if there was no winter, we could never hope for spring.’ His eyes were warm on hers, and wise. ‘The spring will come.’ He paused, then in that same sure tone he said, ‘And so will he.'” (p. 365)
I would recommend this book for a light summer read. It will mostly be enjoyed by adult women. I suspect many of her novels are similar in nature so I plan to only read one every once in awhile.
3.75 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked this book try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as a historical novel.