Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Book Review: The House by The Sea

I am not really one to go into details of books in my reviews as I fear to give away any spoilers and I prefer reading other people's opinions as opposed to the storyline therefore I shall just start with the generic blurbs during my reviews as they probably explain it far better than I can anyway!

Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa just outside her small village, and dreams of living there someday. When Dante, the son of the villa's owner, invites her inside, she knows that her destiny is there, with him. But as they grow up they cross an unseen line, jeopardizing the very thing they hold most dear...Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England's Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Marina, hires an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she finds is charismatic and wise and begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes of the hotel. However, it soon becomes clear that he is not who he seems...From the Italian countryside to the English coast, The House by the Sea is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.

This is one of those books that left a warm feeling in my stomach and in a really happy mood!  It is not a particularly heavy read - on the front it says the perfect "holiday read" - I finished it in a few days however that is also because I could not put it down!  This is one of those books that just draws you in every time and makes journeys fly by - I found it incredibly easy to get ensconced in the stories of Floriana and Marina. It is a really lovely story but does have its fair share of darkness and drama, this is no 'chick lit' as you might think judging by the title and front cover of the book.  The strong overriding themes in this book are that of love, particularly what they describe as 'big love' in the book,  but mainly loss and in part resolution.  These are themes that are not only explored by the main characters but also crop up in the minor characters/plots of the book.

One of those books with two different stories: from different settings based in different times however you know there is a link between them and there is a nice correlation between the themes of the stories also - the issue of class takes an unexpected yet poignant role.  The trouble with these books is it can rather detach you from each story as by the time you are connecting with one part you jump to another.  However this was not the case here, I liked both stories equally and they both had their different characters and the story lines developed at a similar pace so that kept you glued to both sections and not wishing on or the other as often happens with me.  Of course the issue with these kind of books is that I always try to guess what the mystery is and how the two stories link together, because they always do, and yes I could not escape that here either - I spent most of the book trying to look for the clues and dupe the author out of their twist ending!  However I was pleasantly surprised that I missed a lot of the more subtle clues and actually did not guess until near the climax and the fact that you know you are progressing towards the big reveal keeps you hooked on reading even more!

One of the elements that added to the heart of this book was the attention paid to the minor characters/story lines.  I really enjoyed the peripheral characters and were invested in them much more than I usually am - especially in the Devon based parts.  Particular mention must go out to the older members of the story who I really loved!

In conclusion I would definitely recommend this book particularly if you enjoy your love stories with a little more depth and starkness than your normal 'holiday read'.  I found the theme of loss and learning how to cope/find resolution within yourself and life really interesting and relatable because everyone will have to deal with these feelings at one point or another.  If you are after a feel-good read with more adult themes and beautiful settings than this is the one for you.  I still feel all warm and fuzzy from devouring this but I'm sure a long day at work will put that to rights!!


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