Novel set on Isle of Harris, Scotland

  • Book: Secrets of the Sea House
  • Location: Isle of Harris
  • Author: Elisabeth Gifford

Review Author: tripfiction



Secrets of the Sea House is a beautiful, poetic, thought provoking book… and I can’t believe it took me over a month to finish it! I have to say, I wish I could have read it during a few leisurely afternoons, with a lovely cup of tea or coffee and maybe a cosy fleece blanket over my lap… it’s that good. You will want to relax and savour every chapter, every page, every character and every line they say. Sadly, the book came to me in a moment of complete and utter chaos. I had to return to Mexico unexpectedly and the amount of activity I had to focus on reflected my inner turmoil as I packed and repacked and sent boxes and cases and bundles of every size to another house in London (to wait for me until I return in a few months), and the book remained a bittersweet companion during my times of rest from box to box or on the bus and tube as I did last minute errands… And I cannot but be surprised at the connection between my real life and the story, since the main character has just moved to a brand new house right at the beginning of the book. I realize it has nothing to do with my real life situation, and that it is not more than a coincidence, but it still left an impression: it was the right book for that particular moment in my life…

The story is so magical, and the opening situation, the mermaid child found buried within the boards of the Sea Room, brings about so many great changes in the characters, and even more, lots of amazing discoveries from a baffling past, that it made the whole craziness of my own moving process a little bit lighter to bear. Moreover, it is written in a way that speaks to your soul, that brings about a sense of completion. It makes you want to search, as well, and explore the deeper layers of your personal history, the marks and memories that makes you be who you are. Like I said, I know it’s just a coincidence, but my trip back to Mexico made me face my past in a way that I was not even aware that was possible; but then again, there are no such things as coincidences, so was it my energy calling out to the book that brought it to me…

Sooo, back to business: the book, oh, and the Scottish Islands!! What a beautiful image, the perfect setting…! An extremely potent memory enhancer, a nostalgia brewer between the crisp waves and the early morning skies. The Sea House is described with a touch of childhood experiences and a careful exploration of the people and customs from the Isle of Harris at the end of the 19th and 20th Centuries, making it both real and dreamlike, completely authentic and unabashedly fantastic all at the same time.

This is one of those books that come out so rarely, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, all cultural backgrounds, either gender or personal views on the fantastical elements of the story. To all who pick it up: enjoy it greatly, taste it slowly as you take in each page, and discover all the secrets with an open heart and a caring smile when you encounter the characters at the end…

This book was first reviewed by Sandra on the blog


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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021