Your Preview Verdict: Sargasso by Kathy George

Your Preview Verdict: Sargasso by Kathy George

An empty house, a lonely shore, an enigmatic, brooding man-child waiting for her return … a trip to the dark lands of Australian Gothic, for readers of Kate Morton and Hannah Richell.

Last night I dreamt I went to Sargasso again …

As a child, Hannah lived at Sargasso, the isolated beachside home designed by her father, a brilliant architect. A lonely, introverted child, she wanted no company but that of Flint, the enigmatic boy who no one else ever saw … and who promised he would always look after her.

Hannah’s idyllic childhood at Sargasso ended in tragedy, but now as an adult she is back to renovate the house, which she has inherited from her grandmother. Her boyfriend Tristan visits regularly but then, amid a series of uncanny incidents, Flint reappears … and as his possessiveness grows, Hannah’s hold on the world begins to lapse. What is real and what is imaginary, or from beyond the grave?

A mesmerising Australian novel that echoes the great Gothic stories of love and hate: Wuthering HeightsJane Eyre, and especially Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

I didn’t know what to expect when I first got this preview book as it’s a little bit different from what I would normally read. But I wasn’t disappointed when I started reading it! It kept me on my toes from the very beginning and I struggled to put it down. Within a few chapters, I was hooked! The story was very well written and the characters loveable from the get-go. Mostly I love that it’s an Australian based novel. I always love Australian based books! A gothic thriller that keeps you wanting to read more! – Amy, ACT, 5 Stars

Sargasso tells the story of Hannah Prendergast, both as a lonely child in need of nurturing and protection and again as an adult, who returns to her childhood home trying to put herself back together. Sargasso is the home that her Father designed that sits, isolated from the world, on a cliff edge, that comes alive to Hannah and is a part of her soul. Hannah becomes caught between two worlds, Sargasso and the rest of the world, caught between two loves, Flint and Tristan, and caught between her past and her future. This story grabs your attention instantly and I was hooked from the first page to the last. It was beautifully written, and I felt like I was there at Sargasso, witnessing this beautiful house and its occupants come to life. A hauntingly beautiful Gothic novel that you won’t be able to put down. I definitely recommend this book and look forward to Kathy George’s next story. – Maria, NSW, 5 Stars

A haunting modern-day love story. The storyline jumps from present-day Hannah to when Hannah was growing up. Hannah has the unfortunate dilemma of loving two men. Kathy George is very descriptive detailing Sargasso. I can imagine the huge size of Sargasso perched on the clifftop and looming over the isolated beach below. I really enjoyed the book. A pleasure to read however I really wanted a different ending. – Yvette, NSW, 5 Stars

Worth the wait, worth the read. Don’t be put off by the “brooding man-child” or comparisons to goth, yes it’s like Kate Morton. If you can read it in a day to two, you really get into it, it’s truly like nothing I’ve ever read before. Highly recommended and a cracker ending. – Rodney, NSW, 5 Stars

I absolutely loved this book. My curiosity was aroused from the first chapter and continued to drive me to the very last page. The plot intrigued me all the way through gradually providing answers to my many questions. The characters were all real and true to themselves – including the house “Sargasso”, a character in its own right. Beautifully written with not a wasted word. – Susan, QLD, 5 Stars

Sargasso is an atmospheric read. It is set in a stunning and unique house on an isolated and hauntingly beautiful piece of Victorian coastline. It is well written and follows the experiences of Hannah as a child and Hannah as an adult at this house that was designed by her architect father. Hannah is a bit of a lost and lonely soul who develops a unique connection in this isolated and lonely place. I found this book very easy and quick to read with the short chapters alternating between Hannah ‘Now’ and Hannah ‘Then’ very compelling, keeping me wanting more. Although it kept me on the hook I struggled a little with the story, the characters and the relationships at times as there were parts of all that frustrated me. Despite this, I still enjoyed the read overall. – Virginia, NSW, 5 Stars

This book is a wonderful example of modern Australia gothic literature. Shifting between the past and the present the story is seductively revealed in a series of memories from the past and clues in the present. A beautifully crafted exploration of reality & idealism which builds suspense with every chapter. Hannah returns to the home where she grew up after being bequeathed it in her grandmother’s will. It is an isolated beach house which was the proud creation of her father. The move reignites memories of her childhood – in particular the enigmatic Flint. In the present, her partner Tristan tries his hardest to share Hannah’s love of the house, but her increasing obsession with her memories and with Flint causes friction between the couple. Just when you think you understand the relationship between Hannah and Flint, there will be a new twist which will keep you guessing who he is and where he came from. The story is as much about the strange friendships that children have as it is about adult romance and relationships. The broody and tense atmosphere is skilfully and steadily escalated through the entire story and compels you to continue reading. – Catherine, QLD, 5 Stars

Haunting and captivating, this Gothic tale is a real page-turner. If you’re a fan of the Bronte sisters or Daphne du Maurier then this is right up your alley. An evocative tale; moody and atmospheric and it draws you right into the storyline and the environment by the beach. The house, Sargasso, develops a personality of its own and the unreliable narrator adds to the suspense as the mystery gradually unfolds. Loved it! Many thanks to Better Reading and HQ Fiction for an advanced copy. – Nerida, VIC, 5 Stars

Sargasso was an addictive read! Atmospheric and gothic, it hooked me in from the first page. I was dying to solve the mystery. The location description gave the story the feel of a summer read and I think the suspense would translate well to the screen. – Rachel, QLD, 5 Stars

I had the privilege to preview this book. As I am a big fan of Kate Morton whose books deal with different time era’s, I was excited to read to be selected to read Sargasso. It was intriguing to be taken between the era’s, my mind always trying to unravel the suspense between the times. Sometimes, I thought that I had deciphered the plot, then something would lead me another way. When I was young I loved reading books like Wuthering Heights, and I just love Rebecca, so I would recommend this book for people with similar taste. Sargasso kept me guessing right up until the end, which is exactly what you would be wanting in such an exciting story. – Jan, VIC, 5 Stars

Who is Flint? Is he a real person, an imaginary friend to Hannah, or someone more sinister? This is the central question running through this multi-layered tale about Hannah’s return to her childhood home. ‘Sargasso’ is an Australian ‘sandcastle’ built on Victoria’s wild coast. It has ties to Hannah’s past and the reader is drawn through the narrative, wondering if the house will feature in her future. This intriguing story slips between two time periods – ‘then’ and ‘now’ as the history of the house and its past occupants unfolds towards a gripping ending in the present. I enjoyed the moody atmosphere of ‘Sargasso’ and would recommend it to readers who enjoy the gothic genre. – Fiona, NSW, 5 Stars

This book “had me” within the first ten chapters and turned into a real page-turner that I ripped through in no time. There is a real sense of foreboding, dread and a couple of goosebump moments. The chapters are not too long and bounce between “Then ” when Hannah is a child and “Now” when Hannah is an adult and returns to her childhood home, Sargasso. It really kept me trying to guess is Hannah crazy? Is Flint real, or is there something more creepy… The writing style is very descriptive so you can visualise the house, cliffs, ocean and surrounding bush, but not over the top so you don’t get bored. This is also a story about love, obsession and possessiveness. Highly recommend. – Tracy, WA, 4 Stars

Overall I found this an engrossing read which gripped me hard. The main character Hannah was interesting to get to know as we’re the memories of her childhood. I think the author really explored this well and I found myself remembering little things about my own state of mind back then and how much I simply didn’t understand. The description of the seaside town of Shepherds Cove was so good I could smell the warm sea air and virtually walk the streets myself. Hannah to me was likeable with an honest outlook but with many obvious character flaws which we all have. Sargasso for me started off beautifully and the author’s skill put me right where I wanted to be. The suspense kept building throughout the book but I did find myself getting annoyed with the Flint character as he got progressively pushier. Possibly that’s my character coming through! I find myself wishing one of my friends would read this so that I could further discuss the ending and someone else’s take on it. Would be perfect for a book club pick! This was a great read for so many reasons, to take at face value or delve deeper. – Faye Bibby, QLD, 4 Stars

Hannah is a lonely young girl with a big imagination living in a remarkable house her father designed and built. After a family tragedy, the family move away but as an adult, after inheriting the house, Hannah moves back to renovate and maybe sell it. However, the house brings back memories and her imagination takes over once again which causes more tragedy and leaves us wondering why Hannah wasn’t given more help to deal with the childhood trauma and her obvious mental health issues and whether the second tragedy could have been prevented if she was given coping strategies. This book is well written, it is easy to picture the house and surroundings and it is a page-turner. – Gloria, SA, 4 Stars

Sargasso is a modern Australian gothic novel which is a genre I have not had much exposure to. The book is set up on a cliff at the coast in a house called Sargasso. The author has described the setting beautifully and you can picture it so clearly. It is written from the perspective of a girl called Hannah and swaps between the past when she was a young girl and present as a young adult. The author has written it well so that you clearly know what time period you’re in. Sargasso revolves around Hannah and her connection to the house and relationship with a boy named Flint. This book keeps you guessing as to what is real right through to the end. A very enjoyable read. – Meaghan, ACT, 4

Kathy George’s Sargasso is a fabulous read with a spine-tingling omnipresent sense of foreboding set against an eerie and haunting landscape. I thoroughly enjoyed this Australian gothic novel. Many thanks to Better Reading for the advance reading copy. – Imogen, VIC, 4 Stars

If you want a light happy read, this is not the book for you! If on the other hand, you love nothing better than a gothic mystery that keeps you turning pages to find out what is going on, you won’t be able to put it down. – Leesy, NSW, 4 Stars

While not the typical genre of book I enjoy, I found that Sargasso was a highly enticing, readable story, with enough suspense and momentum to keep me enthralled throughout. The telling of the story in two time periods was done well and was easy to keep track of as a reader. Although a Gothic thriller, this one is set in more modern times and in Australia gives it a less “traditional” feel, but does not detract from the sense of foreboding and suspense that you get from the style of writing and storyline. A great book by a great Brisbane writer. Well worth a read. – Christine, QLD, 4 Stars

Sargasso is a wonderful, yet disturbing and disconcerting book, that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Hannah returns as an adult to her childhood home, Sargasso, designed by her architect father and now left to her by her grandmother. As a quiet, introverted child she only had one friend, a boy named Flint, who she spent many hours with, despite no-one else ever seeing him. Now she is back and must make decisions about renovating to live or to sell. Her boyfriend Tristan visits regularly, and she has the company of her beloved cat Kotteb who came to the house with her. But when Kotteb disappears, and Flint reappears, things begin to take on a more sinister note, and Hannah’s grip on reality starts to fade. As Kathy George takes us between the past and the present, we are left questioning who is this boy Flint who has promised to always look after Hannah and what does he really want? A compelling read. – Marcia, SA, 4 Stars

Sargasso is an absorbing gothic tale set against an Australian backdrop containing a modern twist to the traditional gothic tale. Kathy George’s debut novel is a real page-turner. The book is easy to read and the plot develops at the right pace to create the suspense that keeps you guessing to the end. A highly recommended read! – Brenda, NSW, 4 Stars

“Sargasso” by Kathy George was a well-written and highly intriguing novel placing a modern Australian twist on the gothic classics it claims inspiration from. In the novel, the narrator Hannah returns to her childhood home, the architectural masterpiece designed by her father which lends its name to the title of the book. Whilst there she rekindles her lost childhood friendship with the mysterious Flint and discovers more about her family history. Kathy George has created a complex protagonist and personified Sargasso elegantly which kept me rapidly turning the pages. However, for me, the resolution was too easy to predict and unrealistic, leaving me imagining my own final twist in order to be satisfied with the plight of the characters. I would certainly recommend this novel to fans of contemporary Australian fiction who like an underlying sense of mystery and the uncanny. Lovers of classic gothic fiction will be pleased too. – Kirsten, NSW, 4 Stars

A haunting tale well told. I enjoyed the location and references to places I know well. This book was not a page-turner for me but rather a slow burner and an enjoyable relaxing read. – Michele, VIC, 4 Stars

The tradition of the Gothic novel is steeped in misty marshes and shrouded skies, so for Kathy George to set Sargasso in the summer by the sea initially made me wrinkle my brow at calling it a Gothic novel. But what she did get right is the overwhelming ominous sense of something that’s not quite right, even as the day-to-day, even banal, carries on its merry way. The constant switch back and forth between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ is done well, with narrator Hannah’s voices as child and adult defined enough that I was rarely confused about which time period I was reading about. The only downside for me was Hannah’s naivety, even stupidity, at Flint’s reappearance in her life with his possessiveness but complete unwillingness to share anything about his own life. The way she rarely questioned it (or occasionally questioned it, but easily dismissed it) was the only false note in an otherwise very believable character. This was a very readable book all the way to the ending in which, along with Hannah, I was left wondering what was real and what was not. – Amanda, WA, 4 Stars

I don’t usually read novels set in the Australian Gothic genre but Kathy George’s Sargasso may change my mind. Sargasso is a house on an isolated part of the Victorian coast and George develops the atmosphere of what it’s like inside and out so well that you can’t help but feel you’re there. The novel’s main characters are so tied to the house they only seem to come to life when they’re at Sargasso, especially Hannah. We first meet Hannah in hospital as she begins to weave her story, alternating between her early life at Sargasso as a young girl and her return to the home when she inherits it from her grandmother! Central to her story is a mysterious boy named Flint and the influence he had on her! But who is Flint – a figment of her imagination or a more sinister force who influences her hold on reality? I found myself constantly changing my mind about how real he was and that was crucial to my enjoyment of the story. This is beautifully written and a highly recommended read, especially if you’re already a fan of the genre. – Chris, QLD, 4 Stars

Sargasso is the type of story that draws the reader in keeping them in suspense beyond the final page. Kathy George has a descriptive style that evokes a strong sense of place and creates sympathetic and believable main characters. For me, Sargasso an isolated but innovative and architecturally brilliant house is one of the main characters. Its being exerts a powerful hold over the sensitive and introverted Hannah, the younger daughter of the architect who has inherited it after her grandmother’s death. Although set in a beachside area two hours from Melbourne, the story has the atmosphere of a gothic romance/mystery akin to the moors of Wuthering Heights. Hannah is a lost soul who treads a fine line between imagination and reality, her doll “speaks” to her, the house sighs and screams and she has an “imaginary” friend who gets her into a world of trouble. On returning to Sargasso, Hannah’s life becomes increasingly complicated as characters and tragedies from her past return to overwhelm and torment her. I enjoyed the book but I felt it did not really end, one is left wanting to know whether Hannah manages to return to “normal” life and to love again. – Janelle, NSW, 4 Stars

This book entertained. I related to the characters, particularly the older sister in the background, and the setting, being local, and the story kept me guessing right to the end. I was right in some respects, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what was happening with the secondary character. The book held my interest to end, and although I wished it had ended somewhat differently (poor Tristan), as my sister once told me… it’s about the journey. I enjoyed the journey very much, if not the destination. – Sarah Fairley, VIC, 4 Stars

The story of Hannah, then and now, and the house her dad built called Sargasso. As long as Hannah had Flint, she didn’t need anyone else. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy a ‘gothic’ book, but it had me in from the very start. From the architecture of the house to the thicket and the beach, Kathy George’s writing had me in seeing everything as if I were watching a movie. Even though I kind of knew what to expect once I was well into the story, I couldn’t put it down and whilst I really enjoyed it, I thought the ending could have been drawn out more. Maybe that was just me not wanting it to end! I will be eagerly waiting for Kathy George to write more novels. – Katrina, VIC, 4 Stars

An intriguing and entertaining read that keeps you wondering. Sargasso keeps you engaged with the characters and connected to the narrative. While not a challenging read, I could feel the landscape and see the architecture. A great holiday read, particularly if on the beach. – Jane, VIC, 4 Stars

I devoured this book in one sitting. I absolutely adore a good gothic novel and Kathy George has not disappointed. Her haunting landscape descriptions and characters have you up on the cliff of Sargasso as if you are part of the novel. The plot develops at just the right pace to build momentum and suspense and has you questioning everything. With great gothic novels few and far between, you will not be disappointed in this one. – Mel, NSW, 4 Stars

A captivating debut, which used a non-linear structure (with chapters alternating from present to past) to great effect. I liked the first-person narration and Hannah’s distinctive voice, as well as the contrast between the two men in Hannah’s life: Tristan and Flint. Fans of gothic fiction must not miss Sargasso! – Laura, VIC, 4 Stars

When Hannah inherits her childhood home of Sargasso strange happenings occur from the time she moves in to renovate. Who is the mysterious Flint who was her childhood friend and why does he have such a hold on her? This was a gripping novel that kept me guessing to the last a real love story – Leanne, SA, 4 Stars

Perfect for the hot summer nights headed our way. SARGASSO is an evocative debut that employs a dual now-and-then narrative, with both streams dominated by the house the book is named after and the wild ocean that lies at its feet. Atmosphere abounds in the setting, evocative and menacing in equal parts, firing warm twinges of nostalgia at the reminder of childhood summers past spent lounging and baking at the beach. The author perfectly captured the fickle ferocity and hidden dangers of the Australian coast and these taut moments really resonated. The book’s central energy comes from the taut relationship at its core. Shifting and nebulous, wrapped under layers of quiet unease and sensuality, it added a subtle tension as you shifted between the present and the past. The mood constantly tightened and energised by a seemingly-doomed intensity. SARGASSO will be the perfect summer read for fans of slow-burning gothic-style novels, or for anyone wanting to be transported back to the sun-burnt summers of their childhood. – Michelle, VIC, 4 Stars

I was looking forward to previewing this book and was not disappointed. it is difficult to write a Gothic novel when a few amazing books have been written and which are still loved by millions. This haunting tale deserves a place up with these authors, but, personally, I find it impossible that anyone will ever match Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Kathy George’s book though comes pretty close and I enjoyed the guessing game and the wonderfully described characters. I am sure fans of Gothic Tales will love it and readers new to the genre will find this a great introduction. – Sandra, NSW, 4 Stars

Sargasso is a haunting, slow-burning thriller about a young woman’s return to her childhood home. A home where both her greatest dreams were achieved and her worst nightmares came true. Despite the isolation of her beachside home Hannah found solace in her only friend Flint. He was there whenever she needed him but could never be found after trouble and mischief was caused, leaving Hannah to pick up all the blame. On her return to Sargasso Hannah never expected Flint to appear, but one day there he is, waiting for her as if no time had passed. As Hannahs obsession with the house and its untold secrets grows so does Flint’s obsession with her. An amazingly atmospheric novel, the author describes the house and the landscape as if it was a key character in the novel. The reader can imagine themselves walking through Sargasso side by side with both Hannah presently and as a child. This novel is the perfect combination of a modern-day ghost story and a romance, creating a creepy and deeply sensual novel. – Cathie, VIC, 4 Stars

To be honest when I researched Sargasso and saw that it was a gothic fiction I was not looking forward to reviewing this book, as gothic fiction is not a genre I would usually read. To say this book pleasantly surprised me is an understatement. I was totally sucked in by the story and found I was wrapped up in the guessing game of the well-developed characters. I thought the switch between the now and then was executed well with a clear distinction between Hannah as a child and Hannah as an adult. The drip-feeding of the past kept me pressing on for more details to slowly unravel the mystery surrounding ‘Flint’. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a gothic fiction or to anyone who is looking for an entertaining read outside of their usual genre. – Ally, TAS, 4 Stars

I wanted to love this novel, the whole premise sounded exactly the kind of thing I would enjoy. But unfortunately on this occasion, it missed its mark for me. Whether it was my mood at the time of reading, I’m not sure, but this novel failed to hold my attention and I found myself wanting to skip through sections to get to more interesting parts. I’m in the minority, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. – Claire, WA, 3 Stars

Sargasso is an interesting book. It is a story about Hannah. The title is the name of the seaside home she lived in as a child. It was designed by her architect father who died tragically. She inherited the house from her grandmother and returns to renovate it. Through an interwoven series of flashbacks, we learn the story of Hannah’s lonely childhood and her friendship with Flint a mysterious boy who was only seen by her. As she settles in her memories of Flint return and he reappears in her life and their relationship resumes. She finds herself torn between Flint and her partner Tristan, both of whom are very possessive. A series of strange incidents troubles Hannah and she finds it hard to know what is real and what may be imagined. I enjoyed the novel until the ending which is entirely unexpected and in my opinion spoilt what had been a good story. – John, VIC, 3 Stars

Haunting & intriguing. So well written I swung between imaginary and reality. Sweet Hannah…sweet, damaged Hannah. Sad & anguished. – Annie, NSW, 3 Stars

Whilst I could see what Kathy George was trying to achieve with Sargasso it didn’t have me hooked. There were elements that I really enjoyed and parts that were just a bit weird, this could very well be part of the plan but to me just felt a bit disjointed. In Georges acknowledgements at the end of the book, she states her inspiration from other gothic novels including Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and you can really see that influence in Georges work. Overall, this book was not for me but I do believe that fans of gothic novels would enjoy this. – Rachelle, TAS, 3 Stars

A quick, entertaining and easy read. A predominantly well-crafted story, although there were events throughout the book that didn’t seem to develop the story or characters any further (just added pages). I found the lightness of the writing style detracted from the “Gothic” aspects – it wasn’t dark enough & I just didn’t get a foreboding feeling. I was disappointed with the predictable ending. – Gavan, VIC, 3 Stars

‘Sargasso’ is an interesting take on a gothic novel – set in contemporary beachside Victoria during summer while utilising many of the traditional features of the genre. Kathy George creates a magical atmosphere surrounding Sargasso, a house with secrets, which contrasts with the reality of the struggling small town nearby. The main character, Hannah, is believable as a young woman returning to a special place where memories and dreams meld. George’s descriptions of the house and its surroundings are evocative and Hannah’s interactions with her boyfriend, Tristan, ring true. However, I struggled with the character of Flint which led to me not particularly enjoying this title. – Penny, VIC, 2 Stars

Reviews

Dark, Mysterious and Atmospheric: Read an Extract of Sargasso by Kathy George

Review | Extract

3 February 2021

Dark, Mysterious and Atmospheric: Read an Extract of Sargasso by Kathy George

    Sargasso by Kathy George is an Enthralling Australian Gothic Page-Turner

    Review | Our Review

    2 February 2021

    Sargasso by Kathy George is an Enthralling Australian Gothic Page-Turner

      Publisher details

      Sargasso
      Author
      Kathy George
      Publisher
      HQ Fiction
      Genre
      Fiction
      Released
      03 February, 2021

      Synopsis

      An empty house, a lonely shore, an enigmatic, brooding man-child waiting for her return ... a trip to the dark lands of Australian Gothic, for readers of Kate Morton and Hannah Richell. Last night I dreamt I went to Sargasso again ... As a child, Hannah lived at Sargasso, the isolated beachside home designed by her father, a brilliant architect. A lonely, introverted child, she wanted no company but that of Flint, the enigmatic boy who no one else ever saw ... and who promised he would always look after her. Hannah's idyllic childhood at Sargasso ended in tragedy, but now as an adult she is back to renovate the house, which she has inherited from her grandmother. Her boyfriend Tristan visits regularly but then, amid a series of uncanny incidents, Flint reappears ... and as his possessiveness grows, Hannah's hold on the world begins to lapse. What is real and what is imaginary, or from beyond the grave? 
      Kathy George
      About the author

      Kathy George

      Kathy George was born in South Africa and has since lived in Namibia, New Zealand, and Australia. A hopeless romantic, she fell in love with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier as a teenager and includes Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations among her favourite books. She has worked as a legal assistant, but her true enthusiasm has always been for writing, and she holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Australian Gothic literature from the Queensland University of Technology. Kathy lives in Brisbane and Sargasso is her first novel.

      Books by Kathy George

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