HarperCollins, ISBN-10: 0008245193
Gabby has spent a most of her marriage bringing up her two boys largely single-handed, running a book translation service, and fitting her publishing life around her husband Mike’s busy international work schedule. Her self-effacement and self-denial are heroic, and she has been taken shamefully for granted. Approaching her fifties, she wonders if Mike will ever slow down, and worries that she will be forever stranded in London as her boys prepare to fly the nest. But a surprise invitation from Mike to accompany him at his new posting in Karachi gives her fresh hope. Then a shocking letter from her sister reveals a devastating secret. Gabby is transported back to her childhood home on the Cornish coast, and as memories unravel, so too does her new life in Karachi.
I read In a Kingdom by the Sea in three enchanted days. Sara MacDonald’s Cornish novels evoke the place brilliantly; it’s her home, and her love of Cornwall in all seasons is evident in her dazzling descriptions. But this novel is set in three very different locations: London, Cornwall and Pakistan, each of which she summons with equal facility: the growl of London traffic, the wild, windswept seascapes of Cornwall, and the tense, colourful, nerve-jangling danger of the streets of Karachi. MacDonald establishes parallels between the constrained lives of women in Karachi, and Gabby, who begins to see her own circumstances in a new light. The characters are richly layered, and the story, told partly in flashback, is complex, emotionally gripping, and packed with suspense.