Thursday 13 April 2023

The Sea Gate

Finished March 31
The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

This novel has two timelines. 
First we see the contemporary timeline, where Rebecca has just lost her mother to cancer. Her mother kept her health condition from Rebecca to protect her, but Rebecca has recently gone through her own health crisis and is now dealing with a personal crisis that only feels more immediate with the loss of her mother. As Rebecca and her brother clear out their mom's home, she finds letters from an older cousin of her mom's who she vaguely remembers. Olivia lives in Cornwall and has asked Rebecca's mother to come and assist her.
The earlier timeline is during World War II when Olivia is nearly fifteen. Her father has gone off to war, her mother to do war work in London, and she is left in Cornwall in the family home with two London evacuees, a woman and child, and two Land Girls who work on the nearby farm. Also on the farm are some POW workers. 
Rebecca makes a sudden decision to go to Cornwall herself, and she finds the situation much more complex than expected. Olivia still lives in the family home, but she's suffered health setbacks and the authorities are insisting that she be forced into a care home unless changes are made to the house. These include putting in a proper bathroom with accessibility in mind, creating a bedroom for Olivia on the main floor, and a few other changes for safety. The house hasn't been maintained well as Rebecca soon discovers and Olivia has financial issues as well as secrets. The house has secrets of its own, and as Rebecca finds some of them are determined to reveal themselves.
Rebecca's own common law relationship is a very dysfunctional one, and as she finds the time distanced from that situation, she also is able to see her life more clearly. 
Olivia is a strong character and the common thread between these two times, and we see her story link them together in interesting and unexpected ways. 
This book was disturbing at times with scenes of abuse and violence, both domestic and situational, but the characters of Rebecca and Olivia were a strong focus. 

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