Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Winter Sea Group Read: PART I

Are you reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley for the group read-along? Have you finished it yet? I know a few people are finished already. My apologies, but I'm afraid I won't be finished with the book in time for the final group discussion as originally scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, February 1. I hope you can all hold onto your thoughts for a few more days. I had an unexpectedly busy week this week, but I hope to finish the book over the weekend. Thank you in advance for your patience! However, I thought of few things that we can talk about in the meantime.

I'm currently about a third of the way through The Winter Sea and enjoying it very much. Kearsley's writing is wonderful--she truly has a natural story telling voice, don't you think? She's expressive, but in a gentle, natural way. Her writing is rich in a lovely succinct way--sophisticated but not at all pretentious. I love the Scottish setting of this book--I have such vivid images of the places and people, the latter of which come easily to life immediately upon their introduction.

What are your impressions of Ms. Kearsley's writing? Are you like me and feel as though you are whisked away to Scotland every time you sit down to read?

If I were asked which time period of this story I like better--Sophia's early 1700s or Carrie's present, I'm afraid I could not bear to choose. Since I am still within the first 200 pages of the book, I probably haven't gotten deep enough into Sophia's perspective to truly appreciate her story, but I do like her very, very much. In Carrie's part of the story, however, I'm enjoying the dynamics of her relationships with Jimmy Keith and his sons, Stuart and Graham. I readily admit that I simply adore the pull between Graham and Carrie. It is quite lovely.

Do you prefer one time period over the other? I know, I can't choose a favorite either.
Slains Castle
photograph credits: Colin Smith
Wikipedia Commons
The historical background of this book, which is crucial to the story, is a bit challenging for me to follow. A lot of fellows named James, if you ask me. ;) In all seriousness, though, history has never been one of my strong suits. It took me some time, and a bit of external reading, before I caught on to the gist of what's going on between Scotland and England, or rather between the Jacobites and the British monarchy in this time period. I'm not even sure if that's the correct way to refer to this piece of history. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Sophia basically gets caught up in the rising tensions of a Jacobite rebellion in which her "guardian"--the countess of Erroll in Slains castle, covertly (or perhaps not-so-covertly) supports. A rebellion the aim of which is to reinstate King James Stuart (King James VIII of Scotland or King James III of England) who is in exile in France as the rightful heir of the British throne. I think. I know it's more complicated than that, but I hope I have at least a basic understanding of the conflict. I encourage anyone who is reading or has read The Winter Sea to correct me and or elaborate on this piece of historical information. Or even if you are simply familiar with this part of history, please feel free to add anything!

Are you keeping up with the myriad of characters and their allegiances in the historical components of the story?

Stay tuned.. final discussion post of The Winter Sea to come! I hope you join us!


  1. I've started but am not very far in--hopefully I'll be able to catch up this weekend, too. So far the story hasn't grabbed me, but I know a lot of people really enjoy Kearsley and I'm not giving up.

  2. OK - I'm back. Was here first thing this morning and left without commenting (glad you stopped by my blog, Christine, to remind me to get back here). I've finished reading The Winter Sea - so glad you recommended it. I loved the dual stories (Sophia's and Carrie's) and the way she wove the history into both sections. I, like you, loved her writing - very descriptive (which sometimes bothers me), but flowed beautifully! I felt like I was there :)

    Good job on the condensed version of the historical time. The Earl's mother was definitely involved with the potential uprising (as many of the Scottish nobles were at that time). Kearsley does a good job of weaving the history in, but still telling a good story without all the drudgery of historic facts.

    OK, I won't go on any more since we'll be discussing it later. I will add at one point I was near tears with the little twist she includes.

  3. Hi Christine, sorry I'm late. I planned to post my review today and put it on hold. :D

    I finished reading The Winter Sea last week and absolutely loved it. Kearsley seems to specialize in the parallel contemporary/historical fiction/romance storyline. I loved how she worked it in Mariana, but in The Winter Sea I feel that she nailed it. I think that she weaves in both threads beautifully. I know you're still reading the book so I won't spoil it for you.

    You ask if we were whisked away to Scotland. I was! It wasn't just Sophia's romance, but how amazingly Kearsley works in the historical fiction aspect of this story. I was taken away to the Jacobite conspiracy in 1708, and those historical characters actually became real to me. She didn't use the old "info dump" instead she wove it all in and didn't make it all a bore. Every detail is pertinent and becomes and exciting piece to the puzzle(s).

    Particularly impressing: Kearsley's main character Carrie is a historical fiction writer and through her research for the novel she is writing about Sophia and the Jacobite conspiracy the reader not only gets necessary historical details, but also a peek into how a writer goes about conducting research, the writing process, etc. I loved that little peek through Kearsley's window.

    More about both romances (particularly about the one between Carrie and dreamy Graham) later. But just so you know, this was a very emotional read for me.

  4. Too Fond I sure hope the story grabs you more in the next few chapters, but if not, don't feel obligated to finish it you're not into it.

    Janet Thanks for coming back to leave a comment. Ha! ;) I'm glad to know you felt the same way about Kearsley's writing--descriptive but with a natural flow.

    I'm glad I finally caught on to the political plot, although I still pause now and then when a character comes on the page as I try to remember where their allegiances lie.

    Looking forward to the final discussion!

    Hilcia No problem--you're not late! I'm only about halfway through the book right now, but I'm planning to read today and tomorrow.

    Hooray! I'm so happy you loved The Winter Sea! It's nice to know you got swept away to Scotland reading this book as well. And you're right--the way Kearsley incorporates the research of an historical fiction writer into her very own historical novel is really clever and enjoyable!

    Oh my! You got emotional reading reading this one, too? I'm impressed. ;)

  5. Hi...I finished reading "The Winter Sea" a few days ago. Having read several of Kearsley's books recently I think "The Winter Sea" is one of her more (how can I put it?) serious? historical novels. I love her writing because it just flows for me and because of that she takes and holds me under her spell while I read her books. She starts out with more present day as Carrie in first-person narrative and gradually moves into the past as Sophia in third-person narrative. But I think that there is one part of the book that is an "info dump" and that was chapter 15. It was a bit of a challenge to get through that chapter because of all the historical info. and it was sooo much longer than the chapters at the beginning of the book. I have to say...I prefer shorter chapters. Not sure why. I love Scotland and having it as a destination in novels. I think I must have spent a past life living there. :)

  6. wilma I'm glad to have you in the group read of The Winter Sea.

    Since The Winter Sea is my first Susanna Kearsley book, I appreciate you mentioning that it is one of more "serious" historicals. Like you, her writing flows beautifully for me as I read, so I already know I'll be inclined to pick up more of her books. Thanks, too, for the heads up about the info dump in Chapter 15. I just finished Chapter 12 so I'll be getting to that one soon.

    I love books set in Scotland, too, although truthfully I haven't read many. Some Julie Garwood medieval romances come to mind. I love that you feel you must have spent a past life living in Scotland. Perhaps genetic memory? ;)

  7. Oh...and I forgot to mention that as I was reading the book I checked Google Earth/maps and was able to get a real visual of the town and landmarks she talked about. I had a bit of trouble with the location of her cottage at first. As far as I could tell it was up on the hill from the harbour as described on pg 58 "The path down the hill was still slippery with water and mud..." "...and the harbour below looked quite friendly and welcoming. It wasn't a large harbour, just a small square of calm water behind a protective wall fronting the sea..." She also mentions in another part of the book that when she was in her cottage she could look out a window and see the ruins of the castle to the north.

  8. I was really interested to read your post and comments. As you know, I love this book and just about everything else that Kearsley has written and so it is a bit hard for me to remain objective. I think this book will always have a special place in my heart though, as my first Kearsley. I knew from page 2 I was going to love the book...and I did!

  9. Wilma I love that you looked up the visual of the town online! I didn't even think of doing that, but I will today.

    Marg I've had a really busy couple of weeks and am still reading the book. But I'm almost done! I'm at 92% in the ebook... so much going on at home (regular life things.. all good). Sorry to hold everyone up!


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