Ruth and her husband Michael purchase the Sea House on the Island of Harris with the intention of turning it into a bed and breakfast. During the renovation of the dilapidated house, they discover the skeleton of a small baby buried under the floorboards. Ruth's research on the history of the house points her to Alexander Ferguson, a young clergyman from the 1860s. Ferguson's passion was to find the roots of a family story about a selkie ancestor. His research is interrupted by his relationships with two women living on the island who change his life.
In Elisabeth Gifford's atmospheric novel, Ruth and Alexander narrate their personal stories and describe life on the Island of Harris in alternating chapters a century apart. In the historical part of the novel, the author explores the selkie legend and possible explanations for its origin. She also gives a heart-wrenching description of the forcible transportation of islanders to North America and Australia during the enclosure of agricultural lands by aristocratic landowners. Themes of motherhood and loss dominate the 20th-century story. The Sea House has the haunting, gothic tone found in the novels of Kate Morton.
Reviewed by ds, 4/14. Other reviews by ds.