The architect Klaus Lehmann loves his wife, Elsa, with a passion that continues throughout their married life, despite long periods of separation. Almost half a century after Lehmann's death in the village of Steerborough, a young woman, Lily, arrives to research his life and work. Poring over Klaus's letters to Elsa, Lily pieces together the story of their lives. And alone in her rented cottage by the sea, she begins to sense an absence in her own life that may not be filled by simply going home.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 29/04/2004
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141011073
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by Tinwara
What I enjoyed most in this book were the descriptions of the British (North sea) coast, and the seaside village. I felt as if I was actually there, hiking along the river, the estuary, the marshes and the beach, smelling the sea, feeling the wind and the sun, the sand between my toes. Getting to know the village and its inhabitants, just as the two main characters of this novel, Max and Lily, do. Seriously, if I had lived a little closer I would actually have gone there for the weekend to finish this book there!This novel follows the two characters during their stay in the village of Steerborough. Max in 1953 and Lily about half a century later. Both are outsiders who have come to the village from London to escape some sort of loneliness. Max has just lost his sister, who has been the most important person in his life since he escaped the Nazi's in Germany in the late 1930's, and who he has lived with in London (almost) ever since. Lily escapes from a relationship that she has serious doubts about. Max paints the village on a scroll, while Lily studies the letters that the architect Klaus Lehmann wrote to his wife Elsa over the years, hoping to use them for her thesis. Both find temporary love that cannot last. Apart from the extensive descriptions of the setting (the village and its surroundings) the most important subject of the book is love and relationships. But somehow this subject of love was lacking depth. As said, there were many parallels between the two story lines, and I wondered why Esther Freud made the choice for two stories instead of one. If she had chosen for one story line she could have given that story more depth. Now it seemed unbalanced somehow.
Review by booketta
Set in beautiful Suffolk in the fictional village of Steerborough which according to Wikipedia is in reality, Walberswick. Anyway, whether it is the real village with altered name or a completely fictional place is irrelevant as the author conjures up a beautiful coastal setting. I visited Suffolk in the summer and the descriptions have brought back fitting memories of that flat and vast coastline with the long stretches of shingly sand and small villages.The story is told in dual narrative. We have present day Lily reading letters that Klaus Lehmann wrote to his wife Elsa. Running parallel we learn about the Lehmanns through Max Meyer and Gertrude Jilks. In both stories, we have women dealing with love, who they love. Both time zones are set in the same area but apart from The Sea House, the characters do not live in the same cottage/homes.I loved the main characters from the troubled Max to the lonely Gertrude and Elsa and in the present timeline I liked Lily. I found the two men Nick and Grae selfish for both the same and separate reasons. I liked the way the story developed and the journey the characters followed in coming to terms with their lives. A gentle story which touches the readers hearts.On reading the acknowledgements, the story is based on real characters. Reference is made to the Suffolk painter John Turner and Esther Freud's grandfather Ernst Freud, amongst others.