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Sea Change by Alix Nathan

Our most recent BookBubble read was Sea Change by Alix Nathan. A relatively short but fairly intense novel. Starting in London in the early 1800s, we follow the story of Eve, a young girl, left in the rather unreliable care of her eccentric, artist guardian since her mother was lost in a hot air ballooning accident.  With no parents to guide her, and no siblings or friends to share her childhood with, Eve is left to navigate life her way, forming her own moral compass and determining her own path. Far away, in a small village on the Norfolk coast, The Reverend Snead preaches hellfire and damnation to his parishioners, capitalising on the misfortune of a mute woman rescued from the sea to illustrate his sermons. His wife Hester becomes increasingly fearful, but, having moved away from her family to marry and with no other means to support herself, is powerless to do anything as his behaviour becomes more controlling and extreme.

This is a well-written novel (and its well worth reading the author’s notes at the end about the development of hot-air ballooning at that time and the dangers involved). There are some interesting themes with democracy and suffrage, the understanding of mental illness and the methods with which they were treated, religion vs science, the lack of education and rights for women, children that should be seen and not heard. The characters are well-developed and you come to loathe Reverend Snead, but, for some reason, the emotional connection wasn’t as strong as it might have been. And we were disappointed by the ending, which felt more like the end of a chapter than the book. Not our highest scoring but not one of our lowest either and, on the whole, we were glad to have read it.

Range: 3 – 7

Overall score: 5.6

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