The Sea House
by Esther Freud
Have you ever paused to listen while you’re floating in the water? Perhaps you’re swimming, getting caught up in the rhythm of your strokes, and then decide to rest, willing your body to straighten and bob on the surface. It’s then you are calm and can hear an easy whoosh and all the background noises are muted so you can’t make them out. It’s a soft, calm state, where there is no rushing, just being. That is how I felt reading The Sea House. It was such a calm, steady, beautiful book. Freud’s writing is descriptive, but muted, in such a good way. As much as I felt like I couldn’t wait to find out what happened, I knew I’d get there at the right pace and that there was no rush. I was transfixed by the characters and the quiet little sea town of Steerborough, England.
The Sea House follows two points in time Steerborough 1953, and Steerborough present. In 1953, a deaf painter named Max moves to town. He is mourning his sister, and staying with her friend, Gertrude, who is trying to help Max by giving him a job to do — paint her house. He has a difficult time beginning, but finds purpose in painting the whole town on a long scroll. He has a brief affair in the midst of working and by the end of the summer he is ready to live again and moves on. In the present time, Lily is an aspiring architect who has lost her purpose. She is in a committed relationship, but questioning it because her boyfriend has never told her he loves her. She is working on her thesis, studying the great architect, Klaus Lehmann, who lived briefly in Steerborough with his wife. He was immensely popular, which meant his work took him away from her often, causing him to write her many letters: the basis of Lily’s research. Lily is struggling to find her passion and meaning, but is drawn into the quiet town life and finds it increasingly difficult to leave. Spoilers: Lily soon realizes what bothers her about her boyfriend and their relationship and is able to speak up about it. Her boyfriend realizes he needs to change and does so. He is able to say, I love you, by the end of the book. Lily also decides to stay on in Steerborough for a few more months doing the things she loves: painting and waitressing (in order to afford rent) and finding herself.
There was a great quote at the beginning of the book. I thought it not only applies to art, but to life. When Max was learning to paint his mentor wrote him the following:
You can only get to understand things by drawing them. If you give up drawing something because you don’t understand it, then you never will understand it. And if you wait until you can draw perfectly, then you will have to wait until you are dead.
For those of you who have read The Sea House, what did you think about it?? Where you surprised with Lily’s choices and what about Max? Why did he leave at the end, especially when he didn’t have to? I’m so sad for him and I don’t understand it!!
Summing it up: I recommend this book! It was a calm, beautiful book and a delight to read. It was also a perfect summer book!
All the best, Abbey