Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Club-The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea is often referred to as time travel historical fiction, but I consider it more of a clever blend of contemporary and historical fiction in one story. The story is told from two alternating perspectives. One is the first person point of view of Carrie McClelland, a successful Canadian writer of historical fiction who is writing a novel surrounding the events leading up to the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland in 1708 as the exiled James Stewart seeks to reclaim his crown. While visiting her agent and friend in Scotland, the ruins of Slains Castle call to Carrie and she feels compelled to rent a cottage in the area so that she can properly research and write her book. She rents a cottage from a local man, Jimmy Keith and befriends his two sons Stuart and Graham, falling romantically for the latter. 

The other perspective is told from the third person, following a young woman named Sophia Paterson who arrives at Slains Castle in the early 1700s to stay with a distant relation, the Countess of Erroll and takes place over a couple of years surrounding the events of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1708. It is at Slains Castle where Sophia learns of the stirrings of a rebellion on behalf of James Stewart --James VIII of Scotland and III of England, to reclaim his crown. This is also where she meets and falls in love with Mr. John Moray, a man trusted by Queen Mary herself (the birth mother of James Stewart) closely embroiled in the rebellion. Their story is a heartbreaking one full of danger and secrecy, but also one of hope and survival. 

'Aye,' he said, 'there is no sight so melancholy as the winter sea, for it does tell us we are truly at the ending of the year, and all its days are passed, its days of joy and sorrow that will never come again.'

I know this plot summary sounds extremely dry but this is seriously one of my all time favorite books. I found the historical part of the Jacobite invasion and the attempt to reclaim the throne very interesting. I almost find these sections of the book more engaging than the modern part featuring Carrie. Although I will say that throughout the book, it is as though we are looking over her shoulder witnessing how she conducts research, finds inspiration and writes as much as she could whenever her muse strikes. I loved this glimpse into the writer’s process. The love story was simple and not overdone. It’s engrossing but not sappy at all. The Winter Sea really hits the perfect blend of history and romance.
Susanna Kearsley does a great job of intertwining and connecting the two story lines. Even though you jump back and forth in time every chapter it is never bothersome or distracting. The transition is actually very smooth and often times playful. Her writing is rich and descriptive and her tone is very friendly or familiar.  Kearsley’s stories are similar to something like Possession by A.S. Byatt but her voice and writing style are a lot more accessible to the average reader.

“I do promise that you will survive this. Faith, my own heart is so scattered round the country now, I marvel that it has the strength each day to keep me standing. But it does,' she said, and drawing in a steady breath she pulled back just enough to raise a hand to wipe Sophia's tears. 'It does. And so will yours.'
'How can you be so sure?'
'Because it is a heart, and knows no better.” 
I just can't be clear enough about how much you will love this book! I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments. 

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