Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE SEA HOUSE - Elisabeth Gifford - One Free Book

Dear Readers, this book is from a company that isn’t a Christian publishing company, so I wanted to read it before I put it up on the blog. The author lives in a suburb of London, England. Here’s my review of the book.

I love Elizabeth Gifford’s writing. It’s often lyrical and intense. The characters really came alive to me on the page, and her setting took me to the islands off of Scotland. I’d never read any novel set here, and I loved learning about them.

The novel is actually two stories woven together—one from the mid 1800s, the other from the late 1900s. The way they came together gave me an even greater understanding of life on those islands. And other historical events revealed where some of the folk tales came from. And some of them were from Norway, and I'm one-fourth Norwegian.

At times, I wished I had a better understanding of some Scottish words, but taken in context, I understood what she meant. The contemporary story deals with post traumatic stress syndrome, and in one of the scenes, a word was used twice that I really don’t like in the books I read. However, they fit the circumstances. I just wanted to alert you to the fact that they are there.

Welcome, Elisabeth. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
There’s almost always a bit of myself in all of the characters. I can’t write a character unless I can empathize with them and try and walk in their shoes for a while. I don’t, of course, always share their logic and views but drama comes from the way characters see things and the choices that they make, often initially shooting themselves in the foot before seeing – or not seeing – that there might be another way to do things. You also use what you know to make new and imagined characters, and it feels a bit like making patchwork quilts, constructed from snippets of things you recall in yourself and others, but sewn together to make a new pattern and a new creation. If I don’t feel a sort of love or sorrow for a character as I write, and especially when I really know them, then it’s not a good sign. However, if you get too autobiographical, it makes it difficult to let the story breathe and things can go flat for the reader.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
It’s not very quirky, but an impulse decision set off the chain of events that led to The Sea House. While visiting Scotland, St Andrews, I saw an ad for a tiny white cottage on a remote Scottish island and was so entranced by it that within a few days we were there - after a long drive and ferry trip. It was in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of the sea, with only a wheelbarrow to get the luggage to the cottage across the turf field. It was like traveling back in time to an almost lost Gaelic lifestyle. We explored the island, made friends with people who lived there, and heard the story of the seal people. That was where The Sea House began, writing the first pages upstairs in the cottage in Harris.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
In primary school, the class was allowed an afternoon to do the thing they really wanted to do – in a school setting - and I chose writing. It was a natural extension from reading stories all the time; I began telling my own stories.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read everything and anything. I love page-turners and thrillers, and also romances. I studied French and loved reading my way through most of the great French novels such as Madame Bovary. Anything with beautiful writing such as Home by Marilynne Robinson or books by Marquez, I read slowly, enjoying every word.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I try and have a time of quiet at some point in the day – or week - where I remember what really matters and what my purpose is. Knowing why you do things is both energizing and gives you permission to stop and not work towards burnout. I also try to get out and walk in Richmond Park nearby or along the Thames.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
They come out of the air sometimes, but I do assess if that name will reflect their personality and history in some way. You don’t want a name to stick out or jar the reader. I look at period names if a book is set in the past.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My three kids, and not because of anything I have done but because of who they are. A little loving neglect, it turns out, is an old fashioned parenting skill that is very healthy. Children need love and care, yes, but they also need the space to think for themselves, be creative, and find out who they are. They always surprise me and make me very proud.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A seal. Having written a book based on the legend of the seal people and watched films of seals under water, I’d love to experience the way they swim as if they are flying through air.

What is your favorite food?
I prefer chocolate but fish oils are essential for my diet as I have immune issues and this really makes a big difference in keeping down symptoms. It’s also really important for the brain and especially for a child’s brain. So for writing purposes I keep the alcohol off the menu as I have no tolerance and I actually can’t think and drink, but fish oil is really helpful. Beginning to wonder if there is some seal in my background in fact!

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I was a working mum, but as the children grew up, I began taking writing classes for fun and loved it so much I kept going. By the time the kids left for university, I found I had enough for almost two novels. I also had to give myself permission to write! Now I think that everyone writes in a unique way, just like everyone has a unique face, with stories that only you can tell. If my writing feels stale, I read a good book and get inspired by the way it’s written.

Tell us about the featured book.
The Sea House is based on a real letter to The Times newspaper reporting a mermaid sighting by a Scottish schoolmaster in 1809. There were lots of mermaid sightings in Scotland 200 years ago, and also some very old stories about seal people or Selkies. I was amazed to find from Gaelic historian John MacAulay that some very real events lay behind these stories, which were in fact a form of oral history about a lost tribe of Sea Sami from Norway. I also fell in love with the wild and remote beauty of Harris, where the church services are often held in Gaelic. It’s a really intense experience to hear the congregation singing psalms in Gaelic. The old mansion there in Scarista became the focus of the story, and I pictured a young couple coming to restore it from its past dereliction, making a disturbing discovery as they did. The island’s villagers were shipped to Canada during the clearances just over a hundred years ago and the voice of a girl from that time, Moira, also entered the story. Cross and feisty, red haired Moira became my favourite character in the end!

Yes, I loved Moira. Please give us the first page of the book.
My grandmother’s grandmother was a seal woman. She cast off her sealskin, fell in love with a fisherman, had his child, and then she left them. Sooner or later, seal people always go back to the sea.

At least, that’s the story that Mum used to tell me.
‘But is it true?’ I wanted to know.
‘It’s as true as you and me, Ruthie,’ she said. ‘There’re plenty of people up in the islands that come from the seal people.’
And later, I used to think, of course, that’s what must have happened. That’s why she left me. She couldn’t resist going back to the water, because she was a Selkie.
For a long time, I liked to think that. Because it meant she might come back one day, and then I could go home.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is and Facebook page is Elisabeth Gifford Author. I’m also on Pinterest as Liz Gifford where you can find photos of Harris and the Hebrides on my Secrets of The Sea House board.

Don't miss The Sea House, a stunning fiction debut from the UK. Set in a house on the windswept coast of the Outer Hebrides, Elisabeth Gifford's haunting tale effortlessly bridges a gap of more than a century. Adeptly interweaving two tales involving residents of the titular house, Gifford sets up an absorbing mystery revolving around local lore and myths about mermaids, selkies, and sealmen. Stretching seamlessly back and forth through time, layers upon layers of secrets are slowly and effectively peeled away in this evocative debut (Booklist).

Celebrate with Elisabeth by entering her Kindle giveaway!
E.Gifford, The Sea House Giveaway

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 19th. Winner will be announced October 20th at Elisabeth's Blog.

Watch the trailer:

Thank you, Elisabeth, for sharing these two stories with us. I found them interesting.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
The Sea House: A Novel - Amazon
The Sea House: A Novel - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:


Cindy W. said...

Oh wow! I loved the music in the trailer and am drawn to this book. I would love to win a copy of The Sea House. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

I live in Indiana.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Lena - I pray you are doing well.

Melanie Backus said...

Great review, Lena! The Sea House sounds like a winner and I would love to be one too! Thank you for the opportunity and I hope you are getting along well.

Melanie Backus, TX

Amy C said...

The Sea House really sounds great!
Amy C

Amanda T said...

What an interesting story! Would love to read this book.
Amanda from Michigan

Caryl Kane said...

Wonderful interview with Elizabeth! I can't wait to read "The Sea House"!


Deanna Stevens said...

What a wonderful story line. would love to read The Sea House.
dkstevens from SE NEBR.

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this wonderful novel...

karenk....from PA
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Mary Preston said...

I love the prologue thank you.

Mary P


Diana Gardner said...

Portsmouth, VA

rubynreba said...

The setting for this sounds absolutely beautiful!
Beth from IA

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the interview!

I live in Oregon.

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Conway, SC.

Sheila Deeth said...

I love the sound of this and I'd love to win it (and read it!). Sheila D. sheiladeeth at gmail dot com

Britney Adams said...

I love your review, Lena, and am certainly intrigued by this book. Thanks for the chance to get to know Elisabeth Gifford and for the chance to win THE SEA HOUSE.

Britney Adams, TX