Woman reading by the sea

Read by the Seaside with These 8 Shimmering Coastal Stories

March 24 2021
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Sometimes the seaside is glorious and clear and other times it is dark and fickle. Whether your perfect seaside escape is a dreamy Italian beach or a cold coastal town, there is a story for everyone. I think we’re all dreaming of a little escape right now, and hopefully these eight coastal books provide just the dreamy vacation you need.

Becoming Leidah
by Michelle Grierson

When I heard this book described as a supernatural love story perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman and Neil Gaiman, I knew I had to read it. Set against the seemingly mythical backdrop of coastal Norway, BECOMING LEIDAH follows Leidah Pietersdatter, a girl born with blue skin and webbed fingers and toes. As Leidah grows up, her mother, Maeva, worries about her burgeoning magical powers. Pieter, Maeva’s husband, just wants his family to be loved and accepted, but Maeva knows the townspeople won’t be kind when everything is revealed. As Maeva’s past comes back to haunt her, she realizes that Pieter’s love might be putting them all in danger. So Maeva asks her daughter to keep a perilous secret. This novel has an incredible atmosphere of love and magic to it that will pull you right to the coast.

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Becoming Leidah
Michelle Grierson

An utterly gripping love story set in nineteenth-century Norway, about a woman rescued from the sea, the fisherman who marries her, their tiny and unusually gifted daughter, and the shapeshifter who follows their every move, perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Yangsze Choo, Eowyn Ivey, and Neil Gaiman.

The sky opens up... I hear them laugh.
They don’t feel the sadness in the air.
They don’t feel the danger coming, riding in on the wind.

In the hinterlands of old Norway, Leidah Pietersdatter is born blue-skinned, with webbed hands and feet. Upon every turn of season, her mother, Maeva, worries as her daughter’s peculiarities blossom—inside the root of the tiny child, a strange power is taking hold.

Maeva tries to hide the girl from the suspicious townsfolk of the austere village of Ørken, just as she conceals her own magical ancestry from her daughter. And Maeva’s adoring husband, Pieter, wants nothing more than for his new family to be accepted by all. But unlike Pieter, who is blinded by love, Maeva is aware that the villagers, who profess a rigid faith to the new God and claim to have abandoned the old ways, are watching for any sign of transgression—and are eager to pounce and punish.

Following both mother and daughter from the shadows and through time, an inquisitive shapeshifter waits for the Fates to spin their web, and for Maeva to finally reclaim who she once was. And as Maeva’s elusive past begins to beckon, she realizes that she must help her daughter navigate and control her own singular birthright if the child is to survive the human world.

But the protective love Pieter has for his family is threatening the secure life they have slowly built and increasingly becoming a tragic obstacle. Witnessing this, Maeva comes to a drastic conclusion: she must make Leidah promise to keep a secret from Pieter—a perilous one that may eventually free them all.

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The Sea Gate
by Jane Johnson

Set in Cornwall, alternating between the present day and World War II, THE SEA GATE is a story of courage and finding the strength to repair broken things. Reeling after the death of her mother, Rebecca finds a letter from an older family member asking for her help in Cornwall. In need of a fresh start, Rebecca sets off to check on her mother’s elderly cousin, Olivia. When Rebecca arrives, she learns that Olivia is stuck in the hospital because her home is in too much disrepair to return to. So Rebecca makes it her mission to restore the old house, but as she does, she begins to uncover secrets from World War II.

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The Sea Gate
Jane Johnson

A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.

After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.

Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.

As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...

A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.

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The Boy Who Belonged to the Sea
by Denis Thériault

This book is beautiful and poetic and heartbreaking and at times painful to read. There are some mature themes of abuse and illness that dictate the lives of two boys who bond over their grief. After each of them loses a parent, they find themselves drawn to an imaginative world that provides a chance to escape. However, as the lines between reality and fantasy blur, their journey could end in tragedy. Set on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in an imaginative land beneath the sea, this book will make you long for the coast despite the danger.

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The Boy Who Belonged to the Sea
Denis Thériault

A moving story of friendship and the power of imagination, from the award-winning author of The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

The loss of a parent brought them together. Two boys united by grief.

Set on the rugged north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, where the wind merges with the forest and the waves, where albatross whirl overhead and snow lies deep on the land, two lonely boys form a powerful friendship. Together they take refuge in a magical undersea world of their own creation, searching for a sense of belonging. But for one of them the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, and the loyalty of his friend is put to the test in a journey that threatens to end in tragedy.

Infused with his characteristic charm, Denis Thériault’s novel The Boy Who Belonged to the Sea is a powerful fable about the pain of losing someone you love and the longing for security, which has touched readers’ hearts all over the world.

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The House by the Sea
by Santa Montefiore

If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I think I’d want to be in a villa in Tuscany looking out at the sea. So, of course, when given the opportunity to escape there via book, I put THE HOUSE BY THE SEA at the top of my list. Spanning four decades and taking place in both Tuscany and the Devon Coast, this story is sure to sweep you off your feet like the tide. Floriana has always been enamored by the villa that stands just outside her small Italian village, and when Dante, the son of the villa’s owner, invites her inside she knows it’s where she’s meant to be. This place is her future. But as Dante and Floriana grow up, they cross a line that threatens everything they love. Decades later on the coast of Devon, Mariana’s country-house hotel has fallen on hard times. She invites Rafa, a young artist, to spend the summer teaching the guests to paint, hoping to ease some of the tension in the family. But Rafa isn’t exactly who he says he is and has come to the house with his own agenda. While the two stories are seemingly unconnected, Montefiore weaves them together effortlessly to create an enchanting dreamscape.

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The House by the Sea
Santa Montefiore

Previously published as The Mermaid Garden

The internationally bestselling author of The French Gardener presents a complex and irresistibly compelling novel that confirms the remarkable power of love to heal and transform.

Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa that overlooks the sea just outside her small village. She likes to spy from the crumbling wall into the gardens and imagine that one day she’ll escape her meager existence and live there surrounded by its otherworldly splendor. Then one day Dante, the son of the villa’s powerful industrialist owner, invites her inside and shows her the enchanting Mermaid Garden. From that moment, Floriana knows that the only destiny for her is there, in that garden, with Dante. But as they grow up and fall in love, their romance causes a crisis, jeopardizing the very thing they hold most dear.

Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times after the financial crash of 2008. Its owner, Marina, advertises for an artist to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she hires is charismatic and wise and soon begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes of the hotel. However, he has his own agenda. Is it to destroy, to seduce, or to heal? Whatever his intentions, he is certain to change Marina’s life forever.

Spanning four decades and sweeping from the Italian countryside to the English coast, this new story by Santa Montefiore is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness, and the past revealed.

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Margreete's Harbor
by Eleanor Morse

This is a fantastic literary historical fiction tale that centers around family drama in the 1950s and ’60s. Morse has created an intimate look at family life during that time as Margreete is forced to come to terms with the fact that she can no longer live alone after accidentally almost burning her house to the ground. When she finally confesses to her daughter, Liddie moves herself, her husband, and her two kids from their life in Michigan to live with Margreete on the coast of Maine. This is a novel about the complex little moments that make up our lives as Liddie’s children grow into young adults, as her husband becomes more vocal about the Vietnam war, and as Liddie herself feels stifled in her marriage.

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Margreete's Harbor
Eleanor Morse

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I Found You
by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is incredible at crafting intriguing suspense novels, and I FOUND YOU is no exception. Set in London and the British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, three mysteries begin to unfold. Alice Lake finds a man on the beach who doesn’t know who he is or how he got there. Meanwhile, in London, Lily’s husband, Carl, never returns home. When the police get involved, she learns that the man she married supposedly never existed. And back in Ridinghouse Bay, some twenty years earlier, Gray and Kristy vacation with their parents when a disturbing man begins to pay more attention to Kristy than Gray is comfortable with. This book is so fast-paced and darkly moody, it’s perfect for a beach thunderstorm.

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I Found You
Lisa Jewell

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The Railwayman's Wife
by Ashley Hay

Full of grief and new beginnings, THE RAILWAYMAN’S WIFE is a beautifully written historical novel. Set just after World War II when the rest of the world is figuring out how to live again, the novel tells the tragedy that befalls Annika and her daughter when Annika’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident. In order to find some solace, she takes a job at the Railway Institute’s library. There she meets a poet who seems to have lost all hope and a doctor who is consumed with guilt over the people he couldn’t save. With friendship and misunderstandings, the three slowly claw their way back to the world and celebrate love in every form.

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The Railwayman's Wife
Ashley Hay

Set in an Australian seaside town overlooking the vast, blue ocean, THE RAILWAYMAN’S WIFE tells the story of the town’s locals as they face incredible loss in the aftermath of World War II. When Anikka Lachlan, a postwar widow, finds a poem on her mantel, an unexpected love triangle begins between Ani, the poem, and the poet, who is struggling with his own loss following the war.

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The Blackwater Lightship
by Colm Tóibín

Dying of AIDS in Southern Ireland, Declan wants to return to the coast he loved as a child. So his estranged family, including his sister, his mother, and his grandmother, as well as his two friends, all come together to care for him as they prepare for the inevitable. As each of Declan’s friends and family comes to terms with their past and their relationships with each other, they also mourn the death of Declan’s father, who died young of cancer. Tóibín is no stranger to writing about heartbreaking events and boiling them down to the intimate human moments that make them both haunting and deeply personal. The writing in this novel is so incredibly beautiful that you’ll instantly feel part of the story.

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The Blackwater Lightship
Colm Tóibín

Set in Ireland in the early 1990s, this is the story of Helen, her mother, and her grandmother, who have come together after a decade of estrangement to tend to Helen’s beloved brother, Declan, who is dying of AIDS. Along with Declan’s two friends, the six of them, from different generations and with different beliefs, are forced to navigate the shoals of their own histories and come to terms with each other. Shortlisted for the 2000 Man Booker Prize and written in spare, luminous prose, The Blackwater Lightship explores the nature of love and the complex emotions of a family at war with itself.

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Photo credit: iStock / TFILM

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