Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Susanna Kearsley’s writing from some of my book blogger friends. I’ve been curious about her books for a while now so I was thrilled when my friend Heidi sent me a signed copy of The Winter Sea last year. I thought it would be a good introduction to Susanna Kearsley. I picked it up when I was in the mood for a historical fiction novel and I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed reading The Winter Sea.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…
Photo taken using Instagram.
I thought The Winter Sea was a lovely read with excellent characters, an atmospheric setting and unique plot. It’s funny how interested I was in reading a book that is heavily tinged with Scottish history when I know next to nothing about the Jacobite revolution. I had to do a bit of Wikipedia research to get a better understanding of this part of history. I think Susanna Kearsley did an amazing job of making history come alive by intertwining Sophia and Carrie’s stories. It was a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t bored by the historical aspects of The Winter Sea. I thought it was interesting how Carrie’s ancestral memory surfaces as she was wandering along Scotland, doing research for her next novel. She feels the pull of the place and decides that she needs to spend more time in that area. Being near Slains awakens something inside Carrie and she’s able to write about Sophia’s memories. That’s the only supernatural element in the book and I liked how seamlessly it was done. I love how Carrie describes her writing process and how she gets swept away by the stories in her mind. A non-spoilery snippet:
“…I could feel the stirrings of my characters – the faint, as yet inaudible suggestion of their voices, and their movements close around me, in the way someone can sense another’s presence in a darkened room. I didn’t need to shut my eyes. They were already fixed, not truly seeing, on the window glass, in that strange writer’s trance that stole upon me when my characters begin to speak, and I tried hard to listen.”
Carrie’s description of how writing makes her forget about everything else around her is similar to how I feel about some of the books that I read. Whenever I’m engrossed in a well-written novel, I tend to focus on it and ignore my surroundings. I really liked Carrie and Sophia and I was rooting for both of them. I loved that there was a sweet and slow burn romance for both of these ladies because they deserved to have that in their lives. Carrie’s story was more quiet and mellow compared to Sophia’s adventures during a difficult time in history. I was worried about how things will work out and that kept me absorbed in The Winter Sea until I reached the end. I even found the descriptions of the winter sea in Scotland charming, how it was described as kind of desolate but still has its own beauty. I’ve seen The Winter Sea compared to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I read the latter ages ago and wasn’t impressed. In my opinion, The Winter Sea is a much better read. I’m delighted to have discovered a new historical fiction author to enjoy. I’m already planning to reading the rest of her books. Mariana and The Rose Garden have been suggested as good ones. Although it’s a different kind of historical fiction, this reading experience reminds me a little of when I first found out about Mary Stewart just because it’s a lovely feeling to have an author’s backlist to look forward to.