The Sea Change follows the life stories of a mother (Violet) and her daughter (Alice), the former in WW2 Britain and the latter in 1970s India. Violet’s father is killed in a freak accident, and then she, her own mother and sister (Freda) are evacuated from the parsonage in Imber, Wiltshire, after the village is commandeered by the army as a training ground. There is a promise that the village will be returned to the villagers after the war. Violet is in love with a wanderer (Pete), but he is unable to commit to a stable lifestyle. 30 years later and on the other side of the world, Alice has been travelling through India when she becomes separated from her husband, James, following a devastating tsunami. Having survived the wave herself, she is faced with the traumatic task of combing the disaster area looking for him. The book alternates between the voices of Violet and Alice.
Recurrent themes throughout the novel are displacement, loss, betrayal and the sometimes overwhelming inability of families to communicate with one another. Secrets are revealed as the narratives of Alice and Violet converge towards the end of the book.
Online reviewers raved about this debut by its author, Joanna Rossiter. However, my feeling was that the book got lucky – it was picked as one of the 10 books for the ‘Richard & Judy Summer 2013 Book Club‘. Personally, although its well-written and seemingly well-researched (Imber is a real place and a tsunami hit Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in 2004), the voices of Violet and Alice were identical. There was little or no differentiation between their tone, descriptive passages, dialogue etc, meaning I was frequently having to remind myself who was who!
Ideal for a long journey, or a holiday read, but not a book that is going to (sea) change your life. If you ask me in six months, I probably won’t remember a thing about it. Other than that it has an attractive cover photo. I always notice the covers.