Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Reading Assignment: The Sea Change

Elizabeth Jane Howard again!  The Sea Change is her third novel, and it's very different from the cozy, gossipy Cazalet Chronicles. (By the way, Amazon US customer reviewers, whose only previous exposure to EJH was the Cazalet Chronicles, HATED this book.  Amazon UK readers, on the other hand, give it good reviews.)

Emmanuel Joyce is a successful playwright, married to Lillian who is frail of health, manipulative, and tortured by the memory of the death of their baby daughter, sixteen years before.  They live with Jimmy, their general assistant.  The story opens as Gloria, Emmanuel's secretary, has attempted suicide.  It probably goes without saying that Gloria and Emmanuel had been having an affair, and that after this performance, she can't be Emmanuel's secretary anymore, although that's moot because he had just fired her.

ANYWAY, in addition to now needing a new secretary, Emmanuel is also searching for someone to play Clemency in the New York run of one of his plays.  He hires Sarah, a clergyman's daughter, and they all go to New York to search for Clemency.  Incidentally, since "Sarah" was also the name of the baby who died, they change the new secretary's name to the wildly inappropriate "Alberta" so as not to upset Lillian.  After New York, they all go to Greece, so that Emmanuel and Jimmy can train "Clemency" away from the eye of the media.

Each chapter is divided into four sections, narrated by each of the four main characters.  Elizabeth Jane Howard wrote in her autobiography how difficult she found writing to be, and I can understand that after reading The Sea Change. It must have been a lot of work to get the thoughts of these complicated characters onto paper.You should read The Sea Change if you are a devoted fan of EJH.  I loved The Cazalet Chronicles, but The Sea Change shows more of EJH's depth as a writer.  You would also like The Sea Change if you're in the mood for a highly introspective novel about glamorous people in the 1950s. 

Edited because apparently, if I publish from the blogger app on my tablet, my posts don't appear in feedly.  I have been challenged in sharing my posts lately because for some reason, this site has been flagged for sexual content by my employer's censors.  I was in the habit of publishing my posts after I got to work (I write them at home, just take a few seconds to publish at work) but now I can't even access the link to paste into facebook.  I thought I could get around it by publishing from my tablet, but apparently not. Sorry about the off-topic rant, but when do I ever write about sex?  I seriously would feel comfortable reading any of my posts out loud to my grandmother.


  1. Your reviews have a nice, delicate touch.

  2. Well obviously when you write about books and reading, those are code for sex and other naughty stuff. And by that rubric, yes your posts are filthy and your employer's censors are right to block you.

    (I kid, of course.)

    1. It's good that you're kidding because I work for a university! I think it's my post about nipple shields that did it, although I published it two years ago.

  3. You need to know that YOU made ME look wicked smart with all my friends the other weekend when I was able to recommend EJH to them. NONE of them had heard of her and were all so excited...I owed my reading her to your reviews and I did tell them as much.
    I'll read this one, too.