When venturing into the historical fiction genre, I’m often drawn to specific, brief events that were either glossed over or left entirely out of the history books, as opposed to those that cover broad subjects that can be densely overwhelming. Given a subject like Henry XIII and his wives or Joan of Arc, both popular subjects of the genre, an author could easily lose an audience to an overwhelming amount of explanation and facts. Instead, Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea offers a narrow, controlled exploration of a lesser known event, the 1708 Jacobite failed uprising by James Stewart against William of Orange and Mary Stewart to reclaim the throne. It is an enthralling story that makes the facts and descriptions of the people and places surrounding the uprising much more palatable and absorbing.
The Winter Sea also offers a unique narrative format. Main character and popular historical fiction novelist Carrie McClelland rents a cottage for the summer on the coast of Scotland, not far from Slain Castle (where she sets her story) and where the Jacobite uprising occurred centuries ago. Thus, The Winter Sea has two narratives: McClelland in present day Scotland, writing her novel; and McClelland’s novel, a work in progress detailing the Jacobite uprising in 1708 Scotland. Such a narrative format is fodder for narrator Rosalyn Landor, whose performance skillfully embodies the complex mind of a writer. Her voicing of Carrie is investigative, creative, imaginative, and discerning. Her deep, expressive tone allows her the versatility to voice the myriad supporting characters, both male and female, past and present. The dreamlike writing sequences of McClelland writing her novel really sing under Landor’s rendering. With Landor as a guide, it’s easy to lose yourself in The Winter Sea’s journey through Scotland and through history.
The Winter Sea confidently flourishes in the intrigue surrounding this political uprising, while also offering the accommodating narrative device of delivering the story through the mind of a writer. Kearsley and Landor together remind us that history does not have to get bogged down by the facts, but instead can be thrilling, suspenseful, and imaginative, especially when presented from a unique perspective. Suzanne Day
History has all but forgotten...
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...
Please note: This novel has also been published under a different title: Sophia's Secret.
Please note, this title is the original recording, which is now known as Sophia's Secret
©2010 Susanna Kearsley (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Rosalyn Landor provides delightful Scottish accents for many of the characters Carrie meets inside and outside her novel....Landor adds a poetic edge to her storytelling while at the same time giving a dreamy aura to the historical side of the story." (Audiofile)
I seem to remember reading a review here or there which indicated that people who love Diana Gabaldon's work will love this book too. I agree with this statement, but I also feel it does this book a disservice.
Yes, it is about the Scottish resistance to the Hanover dynasty, beginning in the 18th century. And it features a beautiful young damsel and handsome Scottish rebel. But in my opinion, that is basically where the comparison ends.
Kearsley has given us, basically, two novels in one; and there is no time-traveling involved. Her modern-day protagonist is an American novelist with Scottish ancestry who moves to a Scottish village near the sea and falls in love with a 'local'. The historical plot is about a young 18th century woman who has lost her nuclear family and moves in with relatives who live in a castle/manor house close to the same village that features in the modern plot.
These two timelines connect during the novelist's dreamstates. And, since she is a writer, the dreamstates become the source of her new novel. In addition to her artistic interest she soon finds that, since her father is a history/geneology buff, they can combine interests by sharing information - each researching the same material on opposite sides of the Atlantic . The two of them sort out the lost details of the young couple's romance. By doing this, they also end up connecting the dots to their own ancestry. (All while the protagonist is also trying to sort out a tricky familial relationship concerning her lover.)
I really love this story. It is moving, well-written and engaging. As a writer, I enjoyed her portrayal of the various ways authors can approach their craft.
The only thing that bothered me had to do with the narrator. I know that the modern protagonist is a woman in her 30's, and so have no problem with the mature voice given her. But I felt that the way she used her voice when mentioning her prurient interest in the man who becomes the character's lover is overplayed. To me, that type of tone is more realistic when used by a male character. The protagonist is a feminine intellectual with heightened sensitivies. Hearing her description of a man's physical attractions in what I would almost call a 'predatory' tone of voice adds a "smarminess" which I find at odds to her character. I think she should have played those lines straight. They would have been more powerful. (Come to think of it, I'd find it smarmy if used by a male character.)
But otherwise, the narrator does a beautiful job. I am always amazed at how female narrators are able to recreate a variety of male voices. Plus, her ability to switch from one accent to another is so natural that I only thought about it in retrospect - after I read the book and was allowing the phrasing of this review mix in the "soup" of my subconscious.
So don't compare it to Outlander and you will love it.
I love clean books of all sorts. Love mysteries, fantasies epic to kids stories, fairy tales, romances, humor, and historical fiction
The worlds that this writer tells of, the past and present are so real and woven together lovingly. The descriptions were so vivid, I felt I could just have walked into them and seen everything they saw. Beautifully written! Romantic, but not trashy. She had me crying and laughing! This is a very moving tale that though dramatic and tragic in parts has a truly joyful ending. I loved it. I particularly enjoyed the family history tie in. I haven't read much historical fiction. I prefer fantasy and adventure stories. I do love mysteries and romances without smut. This has a bit of mystery, a good dose of romance and plenty of history woven in. I am definitely recommending that my mother read this next. She will love it, so will my daughter and my sister. This one is a keeper.
This book was captivating - very well written and excellently narrated. I highly recommend it. The characters were engaging and full of life. The story line was intriguing and moved seamlessly between two time periods. I couldn't wait to see how it would end, yet didn't want it to be over. I look forward to more books by this author and will be looking to see what other stories this narrator has read. Well done!
I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this book. The cover intrigued me, it was set in Scotland, and the present day main character is a writer of historical fiction, so I thought I'd give it a try. In the end, it was just OK--a bit too heavy on the romance for my taste. The novel centers around a young, successful writer who has gone to Scotland to do research for a new book that will be based on the life on one of her ancestors. Set in the 18th century and focused on the efforts to bring the Stuarts back to the throne of England, the novel shaped some of the more interesting chapters. The modern-day story involves two handsome Scottish brothers who both are attracted to Carrie, the writer. This I could definitely have done without, and I thought the concept of Carrie channeling the memories of her ancestor was also a bit of a stretch.
I doubt that I will be looking for more novels by this author.
The reader wasn't bad, although she laid it on pretty thick when speaking in the voice of Scottish men.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
If you've ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time, you know that sometimes for a story to work, you have to suspend disbelief and just let the magic unfold. That's what you have to do here. The author will try to help you along the way with characters telling you why the setup actually has a logical sense to it, and if you choose to believe for the duration of the book, it seems to work.
The idea of the protagonist as historical romance novelist was actually pretty interesting. I'm a fan of the creative process, and I wondered if the author mirrored her character in regards to the process of writing her tales... with the possible exception of genetic memory. All of the characters in this story, in both time periods, are three-dimensional people, and that's the kind of thing that helps to sell their stories. The settings and situations are likewise fully formed in all senses; Kearsley's writing style is geared perfectly for this, neither over-explaining nor under-explaining as many writers are apt to do. There's enough there to form an image in your mind, and not enough to beat you over the head with it.
The flaws with the novel are exactly the ones you'd expect to find in any romance novel. If this is your chosen genre, they're not necessarily flaws. The tropes are the same, and the possible endings are constrained to a select few (I won't spoil which of the handful she uses here). The author even has her characters hang a lantern on the stereotypes of the historical fiction genre, pointing out that if a man writes it, the book is bloody, whereas if a woman writes it, it ends with a kiss. While this is true to an extent, Kearsley toes that line between playing up to the stereotype and flinging it aside. In the end, it's still a romance novel and all that implies, but the history still shapes it into something worth reading, giving the characters motivation and limitations within the scope of the lives they lead.
This book is a slow read, but it doesn't plod haplessly. It's more like a stroll through the lives of these characters. You get to know them, and you find yourself liking them. This keeps you coming back to finish the story. I've seen some reviews where people find the history to get in the way, and where the author force feeds it to you. My argument would be to address the idea that this is historical fiction, that history is what gives this story its depth, and if that's not for you, why would you read it? The history presented herein is a bit of an info dump at times, but that's how the research goes when digging into the past; you find a new avenue to pursue, then the knowledge is unlocked in fragments. I think it comes across very well here.
Rosalyn Landor's performance here is stellar. She has accents down, and even her male characters are believable. She ensures that you can relate to the story, which is always necessary for the fullest enjoyment.
I really wanted this story to delve more into the characters. I think it went too long sometimes on the historical aspects without the characters being involved. I didn't connect to the story and kept waiting for something bigger to happen. It never did. It was a long book that kind of went nowhere. The performance was good, but don't expect too much from this over-hyped book.
I almost didn't choose this book because of the narrator. In the other books I've listened to that she's narrated, her voice has been cool and distant, and the subject matter dreary. But I was intrigued by the plot of The Winter Sea, so I took a chance. I'm so glad I did! I have completely changed my mind about Rosalyn Landor's narration. She had a difficult task in this book - multiple characters of both genders from two different time periods, speaking with Canadian, modern Scots, older Scots, Scots Doric, and even French accents - and she got them all dead on as far as I was concerned. She made each of the characters come alive, and it was one of the few times I've actually teared up while listening to a book.
The book itself was very well-written and seems to have been well-researched. I had a quibble with events that occurred in a couple of places, but I won't mention them here - it's possible I missed a detail each time that made them more credible. And take note the sex is definitely PG - there is sex, but it is not described, only implied. But it in no way takes away from the love stories between the characters - you still feel the full impact of their love for each other.
I really, really enjoyed this experience - and will probably listen to it again in the future!
Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!
A gentle romance with some delightful characters in an atmospheric setting on the fog-bound Scottish coast. Aside from the usual boy/girl stuff, there are some nice family interactions on display. Enjoyed the narrator's Scots dialect.
I got this on impulse when the promo suggested it was like Gabaldon. I was seeking something simple, easy and light that would be pleasant to listen to and require little concentration. This fit the bill perfectly. The Scottish settings, accents and characters, the mysterious and tantalizing knowledge of the author's ancestor's life, and the story-line about the Jacobites was very nice, indeed. There was no time-travel, and no iconic male like Jamie, but it was a nice enough listen. I didn't care for the tones of voice the narrator selected for the characters but the overall effect wasn't bad enough to be distracting.
Author- doubtful; Narrator- hell, I'm doing a search on her name alone- she was excellent!
yes, because the screenwriter would cut all the awful out of this book and turn it into something that people would pay money for.
This is more about the well researched history than the dull romance. The history is interesting but often repetitive- we get historical accounts in Sophie's perspective only to have it repeated almost word for word in Carrie's modern day perspective which directly follows. I found myself saying, "I don't need to hear this again, I got it the first time!" Book is a HUGE collection of amateurishly attempted literary devices and supremely annoying. Characterization is extremely low when it comes to the main characters unless you like really boring people. There is no drama on screen- most everything that would have been interesting and created suspense happened off camera and was told second hand after the fact. You get prepared for something big to happen then all of a sudden, scene ends and 2 days have passed and a secondary character gives us a summary of what happened. Very disappointing in that regard.
The genetic memory plot device is extremely boring and we get a long winded description of what DNA is (It has to do with genetics? Ya don't say? Double helix structures? Get outta here!) and it would have been a better book without. Mystery is interesting; overly explained boring concepts are not.
Author seems to be writing for readers who are really dumb. She repeats everything as if we didn't understand her English the first time. We get predictable metaphors like how chess is like real- life battles (Who'da thunk it?). And we get passionless romance- no cuddling, little kissing and sometimes no talk of feelings so what romance there is, was not believable but contrived.
What happens with Sophie in the end is interesting and induced tears but that was only 3 chapters and ultimately unsatisfying. The plot was also completely predictable. I had it figured out 20% in and was extremely dissatisfied that I got it right- kept expecting a twist. I will say the narration is EXCELLENT! Great doric-gaelic accents, great male voices and nice distinction in voice between time periods. If you don't have a decent ear when it comes to accents then please note that well done Scottish accents are not going to be enjoyable for you. If you need your British TV to have subtitles, then skip this one.
Secondary characters were top notch and the only thing that kept me listening. I just wish the author had spent more time on developing the main characters than the time spent crafting literary devices. Pacing is super slow, kinda like a turtle who ocassionally gets poked but instead of running a few feet, it pulls back into it's shell.
I might read/listen to the next one as I was interested in the character that drives that novel (to say who would be spoilers) but I'm going to have to find a positive review from someone who hated the first book but liked the second one and I'm not holding my breath. I can't recommend unless you are studying Scottish accents.
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