When Was It Released?: 21st July 2011
Where Did I Get It From?: The Publishers
Who Published It?: Simon and Schuster UK
Number Of Pages: 496 Pages
The House By The Sea, which in the US is titled The Mermaid Garden, follows two stories. The first set in Italy, follows fragile Floriana, who was abandoned by her mother, and her journey of falling in love with Dante, the son of a prestigious family. They first meet when Floriana is captivated by the beauty of La Magdalena, the beautiful home where Dante and his family spend their summers. Their relationship faces many obstacles from the outset including the issues of a rich and prestigious man dating a poor orphan girl.
The second story set in Devon England centres on Marina and her husband Grey who are trying desperately to save their hotel from financial issues. Marina comes up with the idea of hiring an artist in residence, Rafa, to try to attract more customers. The family and guests fall in love with Rafa who is hiding a deep and dark secret.
The House By The Sea has everything that you could possibly want from a novel; romance, mystery, intrigue, beautiful destinations and memorable characters. It is such a beautifully written story with such descriptive detail that I found myself carried off to the destinations of Italy and the English coastline. I found the pace to be slow, which surprisingly I quite enjoyed, as it made the novel an extremely relaxing read that I wanted to delve into for hours and savour along the way. The way the novel is split into two different stories, which are intertwined although we do not find out how until the end, was really intrigued. I was constantly trying to figure out how the two stories were related and could not guess until very near the end. I enjoy when a novel leaves me guessing with the elements of mystery and suspense and The House By The Sea managed to do this beautifully while keeping me intrigued throughout.
All the characters within The House By The Sea are each facing their own inner turmoil’s, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. I felt as though this added extra depth to each character making me intrigued and sympathetic to each of them. I fell in love with Floriana who still manages to hold her head high and strive for happiness even after being abandoned by her mother. I felt her emotions throughout the novel and was willing her to get a happy ending. I also enjoyed reading about the character of Marina, who is suffering emotionally from being unable to conceive children. Once I saw underneath the rough façade that she has and into her true character I was deeply moved by her.
My only issue with this book was the length at almost 500 pages it is a long read. Generally I do not mind when books are of this length, however with The House By The Sea I felt that the length mixed with the slow pace of the novel worked against the storyline. This is defiantly not a book that you can read quickly instead it needs to be savoured and taken time over. I also really get annoyed with novels having different names in different countries. I find it gets very confusing, as I will think I have not read the novel and then realise I have but with a different name.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about exotic locations full of description. It is a beautifully written novel and I am very happy that I stumbled across it. This is my first Santa Montefiore novel and I cannot wait to read the next.