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The House by the Sea

The House by the Sea

A Novel

  • reading group guide
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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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 432 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451628937 | 
  • May 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Mermaid Garden includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Santa Montefiore. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

Marina, the owner of a charming seaside hotel in England, is struggling with the potential loss of her business, her tumultuous relationship with her stepdaughter, and the lingering repercussions of her mysterious past. In an attempt to improve at least her business outlook, she hires a dashing Argentine artist to teach her guests how to paint, not knowing that he will be the one to unveil her true self and change the course of their lives. Spanning four decades and alternating between Tuscany and Devon, The Mermaid Garden is a story of pain, loss, and the healing power of love.

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION


  1. Gardens play an important role in both Marina and Floriana’s individual, but connected stories. What do the gardens represent to this character? Does the garden have a different significance for “Marina” than it does for “Floriana”?
  2. How did you react when you found out that Marina and Floriana was the same per
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About the Author

Santa Montefiore
Photograph by Elaine Fattal

Santa Montefiore

Born in England in 1970, Santa Montefiore grew up in Hampshire. She is married to historian Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. Visit her at www.santamontefiore.co.uk.

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