Book Review: The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter

Book Review: The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter

Shelved: Adult fiction (contemporary)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I watched The Impossible earlier this year, which tells the incredibly moving true story of a family separated during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Do you, like me, find that natural disasters are one of those terrible yet fairly frequent occurrences in life that you find extremely difficult to imagine yourself being affected by? Great Britain loves to talk about the weather, but what we actually experience is mild in comparison to what we see other people go through daily.

The Sea Change is the poignant story of how two completely separate yet devastating events – an Indian tsunami in 1971 and World War II in 1943 – deeply affect our two protagonists, Alice and Violet. We delve into their lives to experience growing up and learning how to move on, discovering that tragic circumstances do not always bring families together. But The Sea Change is not a story of natural disasters or of war, it’s the story of the people who have to go through them and of the normal lives they have to carry on leading. As if life wasn’t hard enough!

Alice is newly married to James, a young man who swept her away – literally! They’ve been on a road trip across Asia, something that is completely wonderful and out of the ordinary for shy, artistic Alice. But then the tsunami hits. Alice embarks on a desperate attempt to find her husband, burdened by the fraught relationship she has with her mother, Violet. Meanwhile, Violet is occupied by memories of when she was simply known as ‘Vi’, when her beloved hometown of Imber was taken over by the War Office, and back to when her life changed forever. Although both stories take place in different times, Alice and Violet experience the same human emotions: uncertainty – of love and family – and a deep need to feel like they belong at home, but wondering how that can be reclaimed after it has already been destroyed. And then there’s the stubbornness and refusal to step inside one another’s shoes, causing friction to lie dormant. Until one of them tries to understand – and fails.

Joanna Rossiter writes beautiful and lyrically to create two women who illuminate a tragic story. Alice and Violet’s stories both fascinated and deeply saddened me; they made me realise that, like them, I’ll never be able to understand. The Sea Change transcends generations and continents, but weaves together the most human of human emotions to leave us with a breathtaking story. If you love contemporary with a little dash of modern history thrown in, this one is for you.

‘I liked being with the books: they reminded me of how many ways of thinking existed outside my own – how small and fleeting my pulse was when set alongside those ageing spines.’

Published: 9th May 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 278
Source: Thank you Penguin Books for providing this book for review!

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