The Sea Gate is a compelling and atmospheric saga set on the beautiful Cornish coast and is told in dual time frames by two women – Becky in current day and her elderly cousin Olivia’s recollections of her life during WWII. This is a story of family secrets and dysfunction, forbidden romance and mystery, featuring a Gothic old house with secrets of its own.
With vivid descriptions, author Jane Johnson brings Chynalls, the secluded family home of nonagenarian Olivia Kitto to life. The story is woven with history, intrigue, loss and a diverse cast that is well-drawn (with one exception – a baddie who’s a tad cliched). This cast includes a spirited and cantankerous old woman, a parrot with a penchant for profanity, a few nefarious characters readers will love to hate and a young woman trying to find out who she is without the input of those around her. I particularly loved the bond between Becky and Olivia, two outcasts who find strength and family in each other.
The addition of a few heavier issues gives depth to the story and allows readers to see WWII’s influence on Cornwall – the restrictions, the arrival of POWs and the ever-present threat of invasion. While this was a captivating read, there were a couple of plot points that were a little too serendipitous and even though I typically I don’t enjoy endings that fall neatly into place, I was happily surprised to find this book’s conclusion predictable yet totally satisfying.
Prepare to be swept away by this engaging and skillfully written story about family, long-held secrets and the importance of standing up for oneself. A great selection for fans of Kate Morton.
— Laurie P.