Summary and book reviews of Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

Sea Glass

by Anita Shreve

Sea Glass
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2002, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2002, 400 pages

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Book Summary

An unforgettable story of trust and betrayal, marriage and attraction, set in the 1920s.

It is a house on the beach. Honora doesn't mind renting--despite its age and all its flaws, the old house is the perfect place for a new marriage. She and Sexton throw themselves into fixing it up, just as they throw themselves into their new life together. Each morning, Honora collects sea glass washed up on the shore, each piece carrying a different story in its muted hues.

Sexton finds a way to buy the house, but his timing is perfectly wrong. The economy takes a sickening crash, and as financial pressures mount, Honora begins to see how little she knows this man she has married--and to realize just how threatening the world outside her front door can be.

Like those translucent shards that Honora finds on the beach, Sea Glass is layered with the textures, colors, and voices of another time. There is Vivian, an irreverent Boston socialite who becomes Honora's closest friend even as she rejects every form of convention. McDermott, a man who works in a nearby mill, presses Honora's deepest notions of trust--even as he embroils her in a dangerous dispute. And there's Francis, a boy whose openness becomes the bond that holds these people together as their world is flying apart.

Reviewers and readers everywhere have admired Anita Shreve's ability to create a "literary novel of the caliber and craft of Edith Wharton or Henry James" (Baltimore Sun). Sea Glass is an unforgettable story of trust and betrayal, marriage and attraction, from one of the most persuasive, farseeing, and deeply engaging writers of our time.

Honora

Honora sets the cardboard suitcase on the slab of granite. The door is mackereled, paint-chipped--green or black, it is hard to tell. Above the knocker, there are panes of glass, some broken and others opaque with age. Overhead is a portico of weathered shingles and beyond that a milk-and-water sky. Honora pinches the lapels of her suit together and holds her hat against the wind. She peers at the letter B carved into the knocker and thinks, This is the place where it all begins.

The year is 1929. A June day. A wedding day. Honora is just twenty, and Sexton is twenty-four.

The clapboards of the house are worn from white to flesh. The screens at the windows are ripped and flapping. On the second story, dormers stand like sentries keeping watch over the sea, and from the house a thicket sharp with thorns advances across the lawn. The doorsill is splintered, and she thinks it might give way with her weight. She wants to try the pitted knob, though Sexton has told her not...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Consider Honora and Sexton's relatively brief courtship. Why did they fall in love with each other - or did they even fall in love at all? Do you think they hurried into marriage?

  2. The story in Sea Glass is told from the perspective of several different characters. Did you find yourself empathizing with one character more than the others? If so, which character and why?

  3. The house into which Honora and Sexton move as the novel opens - a house that seems, by anyone's standards, too large for just two people - functions almost a character in its own right in Sea Glass. Discuss the various roles the house plays in the story - the importance of its size, its location, etc. If you've also read The Pilot's Wife or Fortune's Rocks, ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This is one of Shreve's best, likely to win her a wider audience.

Library Journal

Vibrant characters, coupled with a graceful writing style, make Shreve's novel perfect for readers who appreciate multilayered stories with a social conscience.

Reader Reviews

Laura

A wonderfully told story of relationships between husband and wife, between friends, and among family. The novel gives a well-balanced human insight into life during the depression.

shelly

I thought it was completely wonderful. It was moving and profound in parts, and yet the simplist statement of life. She has a way of stating the little things that you don't notice from day to day. I would recommend this to anyone.

Hilary

An excellent read - particularly if on holiday at the beach. The characters are beautifully drawn and you have interesting historical details entwined with a yearning love story and an adolescent boy flourishing under the care of a mixed bag of ...   Read More

poohbear

Anita Shreve has once again written a multi-layered book. While focusing on the marraige between Honora and Sexton, we get a glimpse into the new england textile mills, the last days before th e stock market crash and a look at early union ...   Read More

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