The Cafe by the Sea

By: Jenny Colgan
A Word from Jenny

Hello! If this is your first book of mine you’ve read—hello, and welcome! I really hope you enjoy it. And if you’ve read my books before, a huge and heartfelt thank you; it is lovely to see you again and, wow, you’re looking great, did you change your hair? It totally suits you.

Welcome to The Café by the Sea! It’s the strangest thing that often you can go away on holiday to lots of different places, but not spend much time getting to know your own country very well (I know as I type this that my dear friend Wesley will be sniffing and rolling his eyes, because we have been friends for over twenty years and not once have I visited him in Belfast). Anyway, moving swiftly on: when I moved back to Scotland last year after decades of living abroad, I decided to rectify this.

I’d never really spent time in the Highlands and Islands before, being a “lallander” by birth (which means being from the south of Scotland), so I took every opportunity to visit and explore, and I will say that I fell in love with the Islands straightaway.

The vast white beaches; the ancient strange monuments; the flat, treeless places (trees often can’t grow in the strong winds); and those endless summer nights when it never gets dark. Lewis, Harris, Bute, Orkney, and particularly Shetland, one of the strangest and loveliest places in the UK as far as I’m concerned, all cast their own particular spells.

I wanted to set a book up in the very far north, but here, I have made up an island that is kind of an amalgam, as there is nothing worse than writing about a real place and getting it wrong and everyone gets really very cross with you. Trust me, I have learned this from bitter experience .

So, Mure is a fictional place, but I hope it carries the essence and the feel of those amazing islands of the far north, which are so strange and beautiful and wonderful to me—although of course, to the musically-voiced people living there, they are simply “home.”

Here you’ll also find traditional recipes for pies and bread, which I love to make and hope you’ll enjoy trying out—you can let me know how that goes at @jennycolgan on Twitter or come find me on Facebook! (I am theoretically on Instagram but can’t really work it.)

I so hope you enjoy The Café by the Sea. It is a very personal book to me as, after a long time away, last year I finally came home to the land of my birth, as Flora does—and found that it had been waiting for me all along.

With love,

Chapter One

If you have ever flown into London—I did originally type “You know when you fly into London?” and then I thought, well, that might be a bit presumptuous, like hey-ho, here I am flying about all the time, whereas the reality is I’ve always bought the cheapie discount flight that meant I had to get up at 4:30 A.M. and therefore didn’t sleep at all the night before in case I missed the alarm and actually it ended up costing me more to get to the airport at an ungodly hour and then pour overpriced coffee down myself than it would have done just to buy a sensibly timed flight in the first place . . . but anyway.


If you’ve ever flown into London, you’ll know that they often have to put you in a holding pattern, where you circle about, waiting for a landing slot. And I never usually mind it; I like seeing the vast expanse of the huge city below me, that unfathomable number of people busying away, the idea that every single one of them is full of hopes and dreams and disappointments, street after street after street, millions and millions of souls and dreams. I always find it pleasingly mind-boggling.

And if you had been hovering over London on this particular day in early spring, then beneath you you would have seen the massive, endless sprawl; the surprising amount of green space clustered in the west, where it looks as if you could walk clear across the city through its parks, and on to the clustered, smoky east, the streets and spaces becoming ever more congested; the wheel along the river glinting in the early-morning sun, the ships moving up and down the sometimes dirty, sometimes gleaming water, and the great glass towers that seem to have sprung up without anyone asking for them as London changes in front of your eyes; past the Millennium Dome, getting lower now, and there’s the shining point of Canary Wharf, once the highest skyscraper in the country, with its train station that stops in the middle of the building, something that must have seemed pretty awesome in about 1988.

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