The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson


One house, two women, a lifetime of secrets…

Following the death of her mother, Becky begins the sad task of sorting through her empty flat. Starting with the letters piling up on the doormat, she finds an envelope post-marked from Cornwall. In it is a letter that will change her life forever. A desperate plea from her mother’s elderly cousin, Olivia, to help save her beloved home.

Becky arrives at Chynalls to find the beautiful old house crumbling into the ground, and Olivia stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her home is made habitable.

Though daunted by the enormity of the task, Becky sets to work. But as she peels back the layers of paint, plaster and grime, she uncovers secrets buried for more than seventy years. Secrets from a time when Olivia was young, the Second World War was raging, and danger and romance lurked round every corner…

The Sea Gate is a sweeping, spellbinding novel about the lives of two very different women, and the secrets that bind them together.

My thoughts:

We meet cantankerous Olivia in the present day when she is 90 and in hospital with a broken leg. She has written to Becky’s mother asking (demanding!) assistance to get her large, old-fashioned house up to social services standards so that she can be safely discharged home. Becky, grieving for her mother who has just passed away and seeing the request as an opportunity to escape her current situation, responds in her mother’s place and discovers that the house holds both sinister intrigue and danger.
By way of a dual timeline we learn Olivia’s backstory from when she was 16 years old onward, and the secrets slowly reveal themselves.
This is an engrossing story which contained mystery, love (both lost and found), complex relationships and new beginnings, all intertwined with a characterful house set in beautiful Cornwall.
And a special mention has to go to the foul-mouthed parrot who brought unexpected bursts of humour and warmth through his larger-than-life personality.

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