After having been thoroughly engrossed by Diana Gabaldon’s wonderfully dense historical fiction novel Outlander, I have been on my own purposeful quest to find other stories in the same genre corridor, which I know from the outset won’t be comparable to Outlander.That should never be one’s modi operandi for seeking out books,which are only superficially similar, in terms of certain key genre commonalities. Beyond those though, the characters of the story will probably be cut from an entirely different fabric, and readers should thus be open to the tumultuous emotional experiences that lie therein with whatever book they are reading to potentially serve as another wonderful, distractionary opiate, to provide some fleeting relief from your stressful lifestyles.
That is what Susanna Kearsley’s adeptly written, psychological tale of one writer, rediscovering her family’s heritage, through the cathartic psychotherapy experienced through writing her next historical-fiction bestseller is doing, in a sense, within this novel (in other words, a novel within a novel). This is a novel about the enigmatic mysteries of writing, and the mysterious faculty of the mind that somehow has the ability to fabricate stories, which in one sense have a uncanny resemblance to events and circumstances from either our own immediate reality, or even events from our own past history (that seamlessly floods in from the subconscious mind, which Jung theorized connected one’s mind through archetypal dreams, to convey things known, recognized,and experienced by others in the tightly-knit, though bafflingly unscientific collective unconscious). I see the collective unconscious, for scientific reasons, as something that more than likely is only currently remaining in the realm of the “metaphysical,” or ideas that still largely unscientific or unproven.
But being first and foremost a fiction novel, the novel key writer character, the sharp, keen observer of the world around her, Carrie McClelland, begins writing a historical fiction saga that seems to be mysteriously flowing in a very seamless way, as if the voice of that story, Sophie from the early eighteenth century, in Scotland, during the time of the Jacobite Revolution, were really some dormant, though accessible memory lying in her subconscious. And somehow, the memories flood her more reasoning, frontal-lobe mind, which activates our conscious sense, or our cognitive senses that deal mostly with how we interact with reality. Settling herself in a small cottage along the rocky shores of the ruins of Slains, she rents this provincial property from a kindly,old Scottish man,who recently lost his wife and has two sons, who are vying for the romantic interest of Carrie M. throughout most of the present story scenes The Winter Sea. But as she is working diligently on her novel set in eighteenth-century Scotland,Carrie finds herself serving as a conduit for Sophie’s story, and the present story chiefly and fantastically reads like a light mystery novel, laced with some romance, as Carrie tries to grapple with the mystery of this strong pull of this story from three-hundred years prior, which seems to be dredged up from the depths of her own mind, and she wonders if the memories of this character, letting her write at a unprecedented speed, are those of a past ancestor of hers. This might explain the almost rapid-fire way that the words seem to magically appear on her computer screen, as if her the writer, as a distinct, conscious voice in this narrative disappears during the process of writing, and this separate psychological personality then becomes manifest in the story.
This novel provides a profound, but imaginative hypothetical scenario of that strange, ubiquitous phenomenon all writers (and sometimes experience), at one time or another, of their novel or novel idea seeming to emerge from the deep depths of their own psyche. Is novel-writing just a way to realistically let other disparate voices in our minds be able to safely tell their story, within the context of a craft sometimes disparaged as self-indulgent, fanciful flights to madness? These personalities do not need to necessarily be real; they could just be unfavored, or socially-undesirable elements of ourselves that we try earnestly to divorce or disassociate ourselves consciously with. Yet in dreams, we often see these unfavorable elements of ourselves appearing within the ephemeral visual of a dream, which can easily be forgotten the next morning, but sometimes something disconcerting about the revelation of what we thought we actively repressed in our dreams could continue haunting our daily wanderings, in the most, subtle haunting way throughout the course of our day.
Carrie often feels like her characters are clamoring for her attention, by beckoning her to go to her laptop, and begin typing furiously, sometimes faster, than a manual keyboard can manage to keep up, to let a story that seems so far afield, from our own experience, be sprung into existence, incrementally, page-by-page. And, the historical fiction story that springs up onto the page is rich and saturated with so many dynamic emotions, rich personalities, and historical conflicts with intriguing nuances that we didn’t know about. Having read Outlander, I have quite a lot of profound respect for Scottish History, when seen apart from the way it became subsumed by British Culture after the Union was enacted in the early eighteenth century. Many people, reading history, do not know that the American Revolution was only unique insofar that is was successful, but there have always been many strands of stories about people fighting intrepidly for their independence. I do not blame the Scottish people of this time, as they had very divergent cultural customs, and their own unique language and dialect, which did set them apart from Britain, in many ways. The history of the Scottish people, fighting futilely, though seriously, for their independence apart from Britain lives on till today. And, The Winter Sea uses that drama as a background for the story of Sophie, who happens to fall in love with a soldier, who is an active, patriot in the Jacobite cause.
Sophie’s unique, emotional travails of love never are smothered by the historical exposition, which Susanna Kearsley beautifully evokes on the pages,in a tender, poignant way, that never straddles too close to the precipice of cloying oblivion, where overdone romance stories became mockeries once they plummet into the great abyss of nonsensicality. Sometimes, the pacing of the story was a bit slow, as there was some extraneous scenes, which were not always coherent with the more pivotal scenes or elements of the novel. Nonetheless, this is a moving, rapturous, beautiful psychologically-deep portrait of a writer, and the stories that emerge in the writer’s mind, which somehow connects us all to an entirely different era of life, maybe either on this dimension or one we know nothing about just yet…
If you enjoyed the artful, romantic drama of Outlander (combined with just enough historical intrigue and drama to keep the romance from getting too silly/sentimental) ,you will be swept away by the wintry waves of this novel, that is aptly named Winter Sea, in that can be at times, coldly tragic, but the waves of tragedy in this story also will bring you back onto shore, with a wonderfully edifying ending, that leaves a rich hope to linger deep in your heart, leaving you to believe that all tragedy, whether through love, death, or some form of the many evils at bay in this world that threatens your faith in life, can sometimes lead to a deep sense of the redemptive aspects of all facets of life, in the end of it all .
LITERARY TEA RECIPE: WINTER SEA TEA:
*1 tsp. of Yezi Tea’s White Peony Master Grade Tea
(Featured here, as a tea reviewed by our wonderful tea connoisseur- Sara Letourneau)
*Dash of Ginger
When concocting this tea recipe, my main aim was to be an earnest minimalist, meaning I tried to minimize anything ingredients that may become an excessive taste, taking away from the light, (semi-“almondy”) taste of white teas. This White Tea is wonderful, lightly flavorful (it is robust, in its light taste, a rare balance of light/deep), which instantly made me think of the core emotion that the emotive prose of Susanna Kearsley’s book is awash in.
More important, the light taste of this excellent White Tea, from Yezi Teas, reminds me of a certain emotional experience, key to this novel, which is wistfulness, defined as silent,reflective musing, and sometimes this pensive frame of mind is characterized by an undertone of melancholy, perfectly matching the light, though deep, taste of this white tea. I gave it a dash of Ginger, just to give it a slight strong side of mettle (which ginger strangely makes me think of stubbornness or some strange reason, if I were to anthropomorphize the personality of ginger), and the ginger made me think of the resoluteness and inspiring courage of the many Scottish Jacobites, who risked their lives, for trying to make their dream of a free,independent Scotland become manifest in their time.
As the writer documenting this story, passed down mysteriously through her genetic memory, the writing of this story puts the writer in a wistful state of mind, making her think that the emotional experience of going through this story is really like being tugged under by the strong pull of a wave of a cold, frigid, winter sea, but there is also a strong resiliency, imbibed from being near those Scottish individuals, who believed so ardently in that possibility that King James could be their king of an emancipated Scotland. This is what keeps the writer, and the character who is experiencing these events (Sophie) from drowning in cold melancholy.
That is why this wistful white tea (wonderful for winter) has a slight note of strong, bold ginger, to make it the perfect literary tea beverage, for those cold, pensive, and slightly wistful nights, spent reading The Winter Sea,while seated comfortably,next to a roaring fire.
**Tea Companies, if you’re interested in having your tea featured, as both a Tea at Reverie tea review (written by Sara Letourneau), and featured alongside a book, as a Literary Tea Recipe, be sure to check out our sub-page Tea at Reverie, for more information on just how to make that happen!! We’d really love to hear from you!!