Review: Secrets of the Sea House – Elizabeth Gifford

Scotland, 1860. Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naïve 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. But 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, Secrets of 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.
My thoughts:
This was a book of mystery and legend, and set in in modern times and in the 1800s. 
First there is Ruth who came the Hebrides because her mother had told Ruth that that was where they were from. But she does not know anything more than that or who her father was. She also had a really crappy life after her mother died and she has some issues from that. This book is then the discovery of her own past. She also wants to find out about the house they live in as they find a “mermaid” baby under the floor. In the background there is the selkie myth binding the the two stories together as Ruth’s mother had told her they came from selkies.
Back in time reverend Alexander Ferguson comes to the far away Hebrides and his new parish. He is trying to find out about the truth about mermaids/selkies. Back in his time we also see through the eyes of Moira, his maid. She did not have an easy lot in life. The laird of the isle is evil and evicts his people and sends them to Canada because he wants the land. And living there was hard to begin with. While I read about these two I wondered how the baby got there, but there is much to go through before that.
I also loved the explanation she used for the selkie myth. It is one that has been known, but yes like Alexander I would have loved the idea of real selkies. I will not tell you anything more cos if you do not know the explanation then you can be surprised here.
Some books I read fast, some I read slower. This one was one of the slower ones as I had to take it all in, the prose was different too and it’s one of those books you read and reflect on (which I seems to have done a lot lately.) But it’s all good

Mass Market Paperback, 303 pages
Published January 2nd 2014 by Corvus (first published August 1st 2013)
Fiction / Historical fiction
for review


31 thoughts on “Review: Secrets of the Sea House – Elizabeth Gifford

  1. Victoria S says:

    Hmm… I don't know the synopsis does not really make me want to read it. But I'm glad it was still an interesting read for you, even though it was slow.
    Yeah, selkies, mermaids — really not my things. 😦

  2. Braine TS says:

    For some reason I can't seem to get into mermaid stories and I've only read one selkie book and wasn't a big fan of that either. So I think I'll skip this one and thanks for the informative review.

  3. Blodeuedd says:

    Though as this is fiction there are no selkies or mermaid in this book, that is just what the guy from the 19th century wants to think cos it was the end of fairytales

  4. Lauren Elizabeth says:

    I have always loved selkie/mermaid stories, and it sounds like this has a nice use of myth surrounding them. I'll have to check this one out, even if it is a bit slower. Awesome honest review!

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