Winter Sea (Kearsley)

The Winter Sea 
Susanna Kearsley, 2008
544 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781402241376

History has all but forgotten... In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film.

The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awareds. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
(Top Pick of the Month.) Kearsley's novel is highly reminiscent of Barbara Erskine's Lady of Hay and Mary Stewart's works: evocative novels that lift readers straight into another time and place to smell the sea, feel the castle walls, see history and sense every emotion. These are marks of a fantastic storyteller.
Romance Times

Skillful writing and research... Readers will not be disappointed in Sophia's enthralling story. Highly recommended.
Historical Novel Review

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Winter Sea:

1. Why might Susanna Kearsley have utilized a story-within-a story device rather than use a straightforward telling of a historical novel? What does the character of Carrie McClelland, as a writer, add to the story? (Also see Question #8)

2. How do the two stories, past and present, parallel one other? Do they? Is one of the stories in one of the time-periods more engaging than the other? Did Sophie Paterson's story hold your interest more than Carrie McClelland's?

3. What, if anything, do the heroines—Sophie and Carrie—have in common? How do they differ? Are the two women believable? In other words, does Kearsley do a good job of creating rich, well-rounded characters?

4. Talk about the men in both stories. Which of the contemporary men—Jimmy Keith, Stuie, Graham, or Angus—do you find most appealing? Does Carrie make the right choice at the end?

5. Have you read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander? If so, do you find similarities? Two other books in a similar vein are A.S. Byatt's Possession and Deborah Harkness's The Discovery of Witches. If you've read either of these, or others, compare them to Winter Sea.

6. Kearsley incorporates a good deal of historical fact into her story. Do you find her historical research intrusive or overbearing? Or does Kearsley blend it seamlessly into her story line? What about her remarks in the book's afterword...have you read it?

7. Can you explain genetic memory and how it enables Carrie to access the past? Do you believe there might be such a thing as genetic memory? Is it similar to the "past-lives" concept?

8. A follow-up to Question #1: the book in many ways is self-referential: an author writing about an author writing. What does Kearsley seem to suggest about the craft of writing—in terms of its ability to merge past with present...or to bring historical events and characters alive?

9. Many reviewers mentioned that the book involved them on a deeply emotional level, evoking tears. Did it involve you in the same manner? 

10. What is the significance of the book's title, winter sea.

11. Does this book deliver—in terms of romance and suspense? A number of readers say it's boring, a dull read. Others fall at the opposite end of the spectrum—finding it fast paced and engaging. Where do you fall?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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