New Classic Reads: The Winter Sea

I bought a book last week on Amazon. Two books, actually, both paperbacks by the same author. Not an earth shattering event in most reader’s households, but unprecedented in mine. I buy mostly ebooks or borrow from the library and tend to forget a story soon after “The End.” Because of this I own few novels, and only hang on to my dog-eared print copies about positive thoughts and writing craft. So the fact that I was compelled to own a hardback is noteworthy. I’ll try to explain why.

People are drawn to a story for personal reasons, and what appeals to one reader’s sensibilities often make another wonder why the heck the author ever thought to write that particular piece of fiction. Everyone who opens the cover of a book does so with their own goals and experiences resonating just offstage. Our life events color what we feel and see in the plot that currently holds our attention – or doesn’t hold it, in which case we discard the book and reach for another.

I can define what most often draws me into a novel and keeps the pages turning. The themes are similar: A woman, typically knocked around by life, who continues to put one foot in front of the other in spite of [insert description] unsettling events. Not always like the perfect Pollyanna, but at least without extreme wailing and rending of clothes. She’ll often cast around, lost, but whatever fix she’s in eventually helps her grow. To become a different person. That’s my favorite theme: Women in the throes of “becoming.” For my favorite leading ladies, there is no pain without gain. Although the gain is often hard-won and late in arriving, it always arrives.

This premise was in place for me when I began to read The Winter Sea. This post is a testament to author Susanna Kearsley. Her story changed my life, as every classic read accomplishes, in one way or another. I read some comment somewhere on the Internet – a blog post that mentioned Sea and obviously impressed me at the time – and made a note of the name of the book and requested it from the library, then promptly forgot. Two months later an email notified me that the ebook was available to download. Here’s what I found.

Ms. Kearsley has a gift that every writer will understand: She completely removes herself – the author – from the story. Not once did my opinionated internal editor raise its ugly voice to say “I would have said that differently,” or “too many adverbs,” or “too many adjectives,” or “she’s trying too hard here.” Kearsley seamlessly weaves two stories into one and effortlessly pulls off a character who speaks in dialect that is so well done I almost felt as though I was also a native Doric speaker. Her characters are well developed, simple and distinct, and so compelling I will never forget them. Gorgeous. Haunting. Beautiful description, passages that made me wonder how anyone could write like that.

Is it a perfect book? No. It is a lovely, moving, thoughtful story that will pull you in and make you think about the characters long after the book is closed. That’s what happened for me. I want to visit Scotland now, I want to see the scenery the characters saw. I want my friends to read it so I can talk with them about Sophia and John. This is my definition of a “classic read,” an author with the gift to make such an impression with her writing and her characters that I want to re-read it and study her lovely craft.

When I finished the ebook, I started at the beginning again, then ordered the print copy – and another of Kearsley’s titles, The Rose Garden. They came today, and I am filled with an incredible sense of good fortune that I own this beautiful book. This is what a classic read means to me. 

Now I have a question. What makes a book a classic for you? 

What makes a book a classic for you?
Join Terri Long, Christine Nolfi, Rachel Thompson and myself January 3-7, 2013 for Classic Reads Blog Hop 2013 and share the books that have made your own “Classic Reads” list! We want to hear about your favorite stories, authors and books – regardless if they’re old, new, controversial, or simply heartwarming. What elements catapult a book from a good read to a must read for you?

This is a fabulous opportunity to share your favorites and hear about more! Not only that, every blogger taking part is eligible for a $200 Amazon/B&N gift card drawing. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to win one of two $50 Amazon/B&N gift card “Spread The Word” contest prizes. Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Visit Terri Long’s website and complete the appropriate Classic Reads Blog Hop registration form.
  2. If you write a post: Your post must include the sponsor banner to be entered into the $200 draw. For EXTRA entries and chances to win, you can promote one or more of the sponsoring hosts’ books at the bottom of your post by adding our book cover(s) and synopsis. All this information will be sent to you by December 24, 2012. If you’re sharing: You’ll need to provide a Tweet URL or a Pinterest URL for verification.
  3. Several days prior to the event, we’ll send an email with graphics and a new link code that will link directly to all participating posts. (Keep this email, you’ll need it, see below!)
  4. Schedule your post to go live at 12:01 EST between January 3-7, and respond to our email with your direct post URL. Your post URL will be added it to our link and used to validate your Rafflecopter entry/entries.
  5. Don’t forget Rafflecopter! Submit your entry/entries at any time for prize drawings via Rafflecopter (one entry for participating PLUS extra entries for running sponsor’s materials.) The forms are available at the bottom of the “Classic Reads 2013 Blog Hop” page (same link as above).
  6. Spread the love January 3-7 – and learn about everyone’s own classic reads – by visiting and commenting on as many hop participants’ posts as you can.

Please leave a comment to share the title of your latest favorite classic read – and let me know if you have questions about how you can join in the fun!

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Link here for The Winter Sea on Amazon, follow Susanna Kearsley on Twitter, and “Like” Susanna Kearsley on Facebook

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11 Responses to New Classic Reads: The Winter Sea

  1. Alison DeLuca November 14, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I love the title, The Winter Sea. It’s very evocative, and I believe this might be the perfect book to go by the fireside on, say, a Winter’s Evening. Thanks for the lovely review!

    • Molly Greene November 14, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Alison, I think you’ll love it!!

  2. Laura Zera November 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Sounds like a book I’d very much enjoy, too, Molly. Have added to my Goodreads TBR list.

    It’s interesting how you talk about ownership vs. library borrows. I’ve also borrowed a few books from the library where I’ve gone out and bought the paper copy afterward. Something compelled me to have it in my house, like good feng shui or something. And I often borrow from the library and then buy the book to give to someone else. There are some books that I own that I won’t lend, and others that I’ve lent out, never got back, and so bought for a second time. I guess those would be my favorites and fall in the ‘classic’ category. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy would be one of those.

    • Molly Greene November 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

      Laura, you always leave the loveliest, most thoughtful comments, and I love you for that (and many other things). I used to purchase books after I read something really good, but it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. Susanna has a special gift. Her story made my cry (as did her writing gift, with envy) and I want to read it until I have the whole thing memorized. Love you, laura!

      • Laura Zera November 15, 2012 at 12:01 am #

        You too, Mol. xo

  3. Dannie Hill November 15, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    I think classics are in the mind of the reader and don’t come from the list of critics.
    There are a number of books I’ve read through the years that just stay with me and I find myself going back to read them again and again. It’s not alays the story but the writing of the author.

    Your post was wonderful and just to see the title The Winter Sea is enough to peek my interest– and then you mentioned Scotland. I will read this one.

    • Molly Greene November 15, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      I agree, Dannie, that each reader determines which stories are classics for them – and that often it’s the author’s writing that pulls us back to the book. That’s what I found with Ms. Kearsley, and I’m betting I’ll own ALL her books one day. Thanks so much for your wonderful support!

  4. Casee Marie November 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Just loved reading your thoughts on The Winter Sea, Molly! This was so beautifully written, and I’m going to run over and add the book to my Goodreads straight away. What you mentioned about a female character “in the throes of ‘becoming'” resonates greatly with me. There’s something so empowering about a heroine taking strides against her own imperfection to overcome life’s obstacles.

    I keep meaning to sign up for the blog hop so I’m going to run over and do it now before time runs out. “Classic” for me has always been, subconsciously, a genre of its own – like Austen and Dickens and so forth. We always call those the classics for sake of classification, and while it makes sense to give the word to books that have stood the test of time I also love the idea of developing a list of personal classics, and new classics. I’m going to give it some thought between now and January! I would say Frances Greenslade’s beautiful novel Shelter is a personal classic for me. It engulfed my world completely and the memory of it hasn’t faded. It’s not a particularly happy book, but there’s a certain raw honesty in the story that just struck me, and the writing is stunning!

    • Molly Greene November 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      Thank you so much CM for your thoughtful comment and for joining the blog hop! I’m adding “Shelter” to my TBR list and I can’t wait to hear about your “new classics” list. Also looking forward to talking about The Winter Sea once you’ve read it. You are the best, we love you!

  5. Marcy Hanson January 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I LOVE this book. I too rarely purchase books, but received this as a gift. Kearsley is now on my instant purchase list. I read the Rose Garden and Marianna this summer, and while I enjoyed both immensely Winter Sea is my favorite. She has a beautiful writing style and I will continue to impulse buy her books!

    • Molly Greene January 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Hi Marcy! I agree, I enjoyed Rose Garden and Mariana but Sea was by far my favorite. I’m looking forward to reading more of Kearsley’s books!