The House by the Sea
UK Edition of 'The House by the Sea'
USA edition of 'The House by the Sea'
Dutch edition of 'The House by the Sea'
Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa just outside her small village and dreams of living there someday. Then one hot afternoon, Dante, the son of the villa’s owner, invites her inside and from that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is there, with him.
Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Mariana, hires an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she finds is charismatic and wise and begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes o the hotel. However, it soon becomes clear that he is not who he seems…
From the Italian countryside to the English coast, The House by the Sea is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.
I have always loved Italy. I’m inspired by the beauty of the countryside and coastline and by those deliciously foreign smells of eucalyptus and pine and ancient buildings. I have spent a lot of time in Devon and Cornwall and it was quite deliberate that I based both stories, the past in Tuscany and the present in Devon, by the sea. The sea is hypnotic. I can watch it for hours. It also resonates with the eternal, peaceful part of me, focusing my mind on what is really important: love – love for family, for friends, for beauty. It takes me out of my very earthly troubles and reminds me that I am more than a transient being but an eternal spirit, here to learn and grow in love. The sea is important for my characters, because it reminds them, too, of the important things in their lives. It helps them heal.
I thought up two stories, one in the past and one in the present and I knew exactly how they would come together at the end – but I couldn’t work out how to keep that twist a secret from my reader. I went to bed and quietly asked for help – someone, preferably a detective, to show me how to pull it off. The following morning, as I was dropping the children off at school, a man waved at me from his bicycle. It was my old friend Charlie Carr who I had been at university with. We got chatting and he told me that he worked for a private detective agency. Well, that was extraordinary! We arranged lunch and he cut the Gordian knot! It seems so simple now, but I couldn’t have done it without him – or the angels that led him to me!
This was my first novel for Simon & Schuster. I had written the first ten for Hodder & Stoughton and they had been wonderful, but after so many it was time for a change for both of us. So, we parted ways and I was picked up by Simon & Schuster UK, which was sensible seeing as Simon & Schuster USA published me in America. I was filled with a new enthusiasm as I wanted to write something every special for them. It was a new start. I had a new team, new energy and a great new idea. I threw myself into this book with aplomb and loved every moment I dived into my imagination.
They were fantastic. They gave the book a glorious cover, which I felt reflected the story beautifully, and we were all rewarded for our efforts with a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. I am enormously grateful to them for that.
I hope it sweeps you away as much as it swept me away. While it was cold and grey outside, I was basking in balmy summer days on my Tuscan beach! Out of all the novels I have written this is definitely one of the closest to my heart.
The little girl stood outside the imposing black gates of Villa La Magdalena and peered up the drive. A long avenue of cypresses cut straight through the grounds, climaxing at the end in a tantalizing glimpse of a primrose-yellow palazzo. La Magdalena sat with the dignity and poise of a grand empress. Her tall, shuttered windows were an elegant teal green, her crown a decorative balustrade built along the top of the façade, her walls as resplendent as silk; she belonged to a world as enchanting and inaccessible as fairy tales.
The bright Tuscan sun threw inky shadows across the drive, and the little girl could smell the sweet scents of the garden that rose in the midday heat and saturated the air. She stood in her sandals and grubby sundress, her long brown hair matted with dust and seawater, hanging down her back and over eyes that were dark and troubled and full of craving. Around her neck she wore a Virgin Mary pendant her mother had given her before running off with a man she had met over the tomato stall in Piazza Laconda, taking her younger brother with them.
The little girl came to La Magdalena often. She liked to climb the wall where a part of it had crumbled, leaving it low enough for her to scale. She’d sit on the top and survey the beautiful gardens of stone fountains, graceful umbrella pines, and marble statues of elegant ladies and semi naked men twisted into theatrical poses of love and longing. She liked to imagine that she lived there surrounded by such heavenly splendour – a young lady with expensive dresses and sparkly shoes, cherished by a mother who threaded her hair with ribbons, and a father who indulged her with presents and tossed her into the air before catching her in his strong, protective arms; she came to La Magdalena to forget her won drunken father and the little apartment on Via Roma that she struggled to keep clean.
‘Two stories, two generations, and two beautiful European locales are neatly gift wrapped into one sumptuous tale of love, loss, and redemption.’
Publishers Weekly, USA
‘This novel has all the secrets, mystery, passionate love affairs…unforgettable’
‘A sweeping saga’
‘Secrets, mystery and passion run through the book and you feel you are actually in the Tuscan and Devonshire countrysides…a great read and perfect to take on holiday – I loved it and couldn’t put it down’
New Books Magazine