Gift from the sea

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Paperback, 1975




New York : Vintage Books, 1991, c1975.


Over a quarter of a century after its first publication, the great and simple wisdom in this book continues to influence women's lives.

Media reviews

Harper's Magazine
There is a universality in her philosophy which is neither masculine nor feminine. A wise and beautiful book.
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Christian Science Monitor
A thing of beauty which "has the eternal validity of all beautiful and fleeting things." It is a sincere and eloquent plea for the ineffable rights of the individual, especially the individual as a woman.
Associated Press
I would swap it for all the bestseller, do-good, inspirational books I have read. Here are some of the profoundest and most helpful observations and comments, expressed in the clearest language, in the warmest tone.
The New York Times Book Review
Though it deals with the essential needs, gifts, obligations and aspirations of woman as distinct from those of man, it is in no sense merely what is sometimes slightingly called a woman's book. A sensitive, tensile, original mind probes delicately into questions of balance and relationship in the world today, and the result is a book for human beings who are mature or in search of maturity, whether men or women.
An Intensely personal book in which, nonetheless, every thoughtful woman will find a reflection of her own half- realized frustrations and answers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jbarr5
Gift from the sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Have read other books from this author/pilot and have enjoyed the reads.
Like the name of the book and how it relates to her life.
On her vacation away from everybody she is able to relax and really take in her surroundings.
She measures her life, love, existence and even chores to the seashells she finds and how she perceives them as they pertain to her life.
What a treasure!
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
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LibraryThing member harrietbrown
Wonderful book, especially if you are in the midst of a family crisis, or have a growing family, with all the challenges that one encounters.
LibraryThing member dypaloh
In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh concerns herself with life as it was lived in the 1950s, particularly, it seems, as lived by American women of her own social class. She finds it useful (and I won’t begrudge her the idea that it is so) to find in seashells the gift of inspirations for thinking about big and small spaces, about how life can demand too much in too little time or offer too little in much time, and about the ways one might find a success that harmonizes with one’s spirit.

She writes, “If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical, or strange.”

This is key: “A room of one’s own” needs an hour of one’s own, too.

Lindbergh champions the idea of seeking out the unknown. She sees big-city life, with all its variety, motivating individuals to restrict their acquaintance to others like them, exchanging the opportunity presented by the unknown for the familiarity of the comfortable. She wants us, women and men, to seek the unknown, saying “it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.”

While not a book I would have thought to pick up (it arrived at the house long ago as part of a Book Club package and I’ve only now just read it), I find myself thinking Anne Morrow Lindbergh is someone I would like to have met, to have talked with for an hour or so. And not because she knew some guy named Charles.
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
This little book is like a breath of fresh air. Even though it was published in 1955 (with a update in the version I read - 1975), it is still as poignant as ever. I think it is more aptly directed at women, but it would be beautiful as well for a man trying to understand his wife/partner. It is very understanding of the world women live in, including nuturing relationships with men. But mostly it is about paring down to a simple, conscious life and finding your inner peace and just enjoying what you have, or finding what you enjoy. Lindbergh presents it in a way that is accessible to every woman, no matter her circumstances, background or present relationships (friends, family, partner). Since I am about to embark on a vacation by the sea, I'm so glad I read this first. I highly recommend it, especially for the woman reader who is feeling a bit lost of purpose or sense of self. I guarantee this will make you feel a bit better and give you some ideas towards hope.… (more)
LibraryThing member books_ofa_feather
I was struck so many times by the relativity her words had to today's world, especially since this book was published over 50 years ago. There were many profound thoughts that I want to "chew on" and even go back to again. I love her observant nature of the world around her. She name drops (love, love when authors do this) some of my favorite people...of course my man Rilke. This book was made even more precious to me by the opportunity to read it out loud with my Mum and Gran. It provoked many good discussions because I'm not blindly loving everything about this book. (insert wink) However, for the most part spot on!… (more)
LibraryThing member NTE
I am going back and forth on the rating for this one: On the one hand, there's less than 150 pages and at least 7 sticky notes... this reflects well on the book. On the other hand, there's ... just something- A tone. A knowing-ness. A "Secret" vibe. - that made uncomfortable with the whole of the book. So, 3 stars, but with the caveat that I know Lindbergh was probably smarter & more in tune with herself than I will ever be with myself, and maybe that's off-putting to me?

I look back at the sticky notes, hoping for some inspiration, wisdom: "Communication - but not for too long. Because good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." It's there, in the thoughts so clearly spelled out that I marked them to come back to later - her thinking through the value in and of her life, and finding out so many things about herself and her relationships, during this break from it all, sitting in an isolated cabin, walking on an abandoned beach. I don't know, something about it is so uplifting, this woman finding both the personal and universal truths in her life - "For 'there is no one-and-only,' as a friend of mine once said in a similar discussion, 'there are just one-and-only moments.'" - It's breathtaking and beautiful, and at the same time, frustrating to me.

In a way I can't fully describe, the simplicity of it all (describing her thoughts and revelations as different types of shells) frustrates me. It makes me feel stupid, instead of inspired. Because I'm not making things as simple as they seem here, and I don't know how to. Part of what annoys me is her obvious privileges - to spare the time away, to take those breaths that renew her without constant pain or a child crying at her leg - when she counsels others to take the time for themselves, I feel that raging frustration of "Well, sure, but HOW Do You Do That In Real Life?" And I know her times were different, and I really don't know anything about her life at all (I know the basics, and looked up more after I read the book - The lost baby, the exile, the hounding press, the feminist icon, the naturalist, eventually disabled by a stroke and lost not all that long ago) but I know it was hard, and that she could put together the pieces with such clarity as she writes in this book ("Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simple there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone." And this is pre TV/Twitter/Tumblr, people, but it's my life.)

It pisses me off and gives me hope at the same time. That deserves 3 stars all on its own, I suppose.
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LibraryThing member akeela
This is one of my enduring favorites. Although this memoir was written in 1955, it is still completely relevant today. In the midst of being tied up with her family life –she has a husband and five children – Lindbergh decides to take off and spend some time alone on an island to replenish herself. As the days pass, she starts relaxing and leaving the busyness behind; she then begins to soak up nature and the abundant gifts the sea has to offer in terms of life lessons. Very wise, and beautifully written. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
I gave this book 3 stars because many people will find it inspirational, as I did, in parts. I like the fact that Lindberg emphasizes the need for solitude which many people then and now still seem not to understand. Also, I have great respect for Lindberg's intelligence and her abilities. But her long interlude on the importance of and means of maintaining one's marriage, of overlooking faults and nurturing a continuing relationship with one's husband was grating. Lindberg's husband was also intelligent and accomplished and a non-repentant anti-semitic Nazi sympathizer who never admitted his mistakes. I suppose a good Catholic woman would think it admirable to overlook his faults as a good mafia wife would, but I don't see that as an admirable accomplishment. Anne Lindberg with her parcel of children and an anti-Semitic husband and the Kennedy women with their parcels of children and their roving husbands took solace in walking the spiritual road of their Catholic faiths. Good for them and their psyches, but I don't think they should give advice to do the same to women trying to lead lives of fuller authenticity.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rascalstar
This book is timeless, especially for women. Written in 1955 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh while she took a couple weeks out of her busy life to write and reflect on an island in a cottage by the sea, the book still speaks to current generations. She uses various type of empty seashells to illustrate and discuss the stages of life, mostly for women, but men have found this little book a gem as well. It can be read in a day. Her reflections and observations are wise and speak to several generations. At the time, she had 5 children and was married, with a busy social and working life. She points up that all women, especially then in 1955 and probably more so now, need alone time to replenish themselves. Women give so much of themselves to people and other activities that this alone time is critical. She makes some astute observations about aging women as well.

I think I'll read the book again now and then. It's graciously written and a good reminder.
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
A collection of personal essays by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, each one using a seashell as an analogy. This is the type of writing that would appeal to some women, especially those who are wives and mothers. Some things she said did resonate with me and her writing was nice, but it was really hard not to try to read between the lines knowing that the author was married to Charles Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer who also reportedly was a cold fish but yet still managed to have secret mistresses and families with these other women. She never refers to him (or her children) directly but always speaks in very general terms, i.e. " a husband and a wife". What was really going on in her life when she wrote Gift from the Sea in 1955, I cannot help but wonder.… (more)
LibraryThing member memccauley6
Your experience with this book will be like everything else in life – it depends on the attitude you bring. I think most people will find this book full of profound meditations on what it means to be an American woman, most still as true today as they were when she wrote them in 1955. This is one of those books that you can read over again at different ages and stages in your life and find totally new gems that you missed before.

I picked this up after reading The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, because I wanted to know more about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was perpetually in the shadow of her famous husband.
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LibraryThing member Marse
I thought, when I got this book, that it would be a book of poems or maybe prose poems. Something not too deep, but whimsical and pleasant. Why I thought that is unknown. What I got was thoughtful and lovely reflections on a life: a female life, in her middle years, a mother, a wife and a writer to boot. It anticipates such books as: "A Year by the Sea:Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman" by Joan Anderson and works by Julia Cameron. It is about writing, about finding one's center, about being human, about being whole -- and yet it is not preachy nor is it a self-help book. I really enjoyed it. An unexpected pleasure.… (more)
LibraryThing member LynnMoore
An extraordinary book on relationships and the way they change during our lives. Looking for ourselves later in life. Changes in life.
LibraryThing member yeldabmoers
I’m afraid I’m going to get into trouble for writing this review because I believe I may be critical of one of the darlings of American Literature, especially a woman who was such a pioneer. For the most part, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of aviation legend Charles Lindbergh, is a poignant meditation of a woman’s life, her role, her place in society, her demands of motherhood, wifedom, and her needs for solitude and inward contemplation. Lindbergh writes from her own experience while spending time alone in a cottage on an island far from her mainstay life. Each chapter is the name of a shell on the shore that she collects and that inspires her musings on life. She also discusses her feelings on approaching middle age.

Though the book is well written, and well thought out, I found it at times to be bizarre and disconnected from the real world. Lindbergh spends time alone on her cottage, near the shore, away from her husband and five children. At times she actually advocates being away from one’s children for as long as a month. Now I know Thoreau did this or something similar when he lived in a tiny log cabin in the woods alone for 2 years and 2 months, but he was not married and had no children. I find this type of experiment quite detached for a mother, and I can’t say if she began this habit when her children were young, but to advise such a thing to me was strange.

Lindbergh makes many analogies between seashells and life and though at times I found it poetic and moving, all the pieces didn’t connect for me, and I felt these analogies forced. I also couldn’t help that she was writing from a place of privilege (was she really making her children’s beds when she was born into a privileged life and married to a famed aviator?). Her message is engaging—find time as a woman to cultivate your inner life in your own space, similar to what Virginia Woolf preached in her essay, A Room of One’s Own. But Woolf didn’t have any children; Lindbergh had five. You don’t go to a cabin and leave your husband when you have five children to tend to. Why would you have five children then? Could a middle class woman who has everyday childcare and household responsibilities really do this?

Another bizarre clip: she keeps mentioning love affairs, and how if we as women don’t cultivate our inner life, we may be rushing off into a love affair. She had mentioned this several times, peppered throughout her book. A woman who has normal family responsibilities does not easily rush into a love affair, as far as I know. But then again, who knows? I only have one young child myself. Gift from the Sea is a sermon that’s quite original. As a woman of privilege, Lindbergh could speak this way, but many other middle class women couldn’t live this Thoreauvian life she depicts by the sea. A cottage on the sea, by the way, is probably very expensive too.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
This is one of my favorite books. I love the thoughts put forth by the author. Not that I always agree, but I love the way she words them. Her thoughts cover all the things which women deal with in their lives. It is almost like reading poetry, yet it's prose.
LibraryThing member writestuff
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s slim book of essays, Gift From The Sea, was first published in 1955. Her work within the pages of this book was inspired during a short vacation she took by herself to an island - a place where she communed with the wide expanse of the sea, the star-filled nights, the sandy beaches and the empty shells of mysterious ocean life. Lindbergh contemplates love and marriage, solitude, and inner strength, using shells as metaphor for how to live our lives.

The book gives a unique insight into a time in history for women. The 50s housewife was just beginning to see the possibilities for herself, and Lindbergh captures that eagerness. She also inserts a warning to women not to forget where their strength lies - inside.

Gifts From the Sea is a timeless classic. I highlighted many passages which are still relevant to today’s world. Lindbergh writes with a beauty and wisdom, a poetic style which draws the reader in.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member michaelm42071
On vacation on Captiva Island by herself, with a brief visit from her sister, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes about learning from her time there and from seashells such as the channeled whelk, the double-sunrise, and the argonauta what she calls her “island-precepts.”
"Simplicity of living, as much as possible, to retain a true awareness of life. Balance of physical, intellectual, and spiritual life. Work without pressure. Space for significance and beauty. Time for solitude and sharing. Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life; life of the spirit, creative life, and the life of human relationships. A few shells."
Lindbergh is writing primarily about pressures, tensions, and distractions of a woman’s life at mid-life and she talks about “a room of one’s own” (without mentioning Woolf by name) and the activity of feminists. But the desire to avoid fragmentation (she uses William James’s word Zerrissenheit) and to achieve a modicum of grace, “inner and outer harmony,” is not gender-bound.
She sounds very modern on the global awareness—she calls it “planetal awareness”—we are pressured by:
"We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information spread out in public print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds"
She has a tendency to write at a high level of abstraction and generalization and counters the tendency with homely metaphors like those of the shells.
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LibraryThing member arcona
When I first came across this book many years ago, it was one of the first books I had read that dealt with being a woman. Her approach to taking time out to go to the seaside to assess her life appealed immensely to me. The seaside has always helped me put things in perspective, but I never could have expressed it so well. A wonderful read.… (more)
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Thoughtful reflections on a life. I liked the idea of taking time to be alone and think. The shell analogies were interesting - especially the clam shell!
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Yeah - a very _nice_ book, but not for me. It's only been a couple days and the impression it left on me is fading already. I'm usually not interested in philosophy - it's the new/true thing. If it's a truly new thought, it doesn't seem to apply to me; if a discussion applies to me, it's usually familiar to the point of cliche. This one is mostly the latter - the shells as metaphor for stages of life is cute, but not particularly deep. The stuff about finding your center to support the outward life makes sense...and is something that just about every philosophy supports and encourages. I found it (slightly) more interesting as a historical piece, the specific discussions of how a woman spends her time and what, exactly, was drawing her away from her center - in 1955. The additional afterword, written in 1975 for the 20th Anniversary Edition of the book, is interesting in the same way. But that's not what the book is supposed to be about, so the historical aspects are mentioned in passing at best. I apparently thought it was a science book when I got it, rather than philosophy - a study of shells or the like, I suspect. That would have been more interesting. Beautifully written, well-expressed thoughts...and utterly boring for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member SLuce
Bookclub selection. A short book, enjoyed.
LibraryThing member ohheyyitsminjee
Anne Morrow Lindbergh incorporates different types of seashells in her reflection of life. Reading this book allows one to think of the different stages of life and learn to reflect on each stage. While reading the words of Lindbergh, one learns the importance of solitude and the concept of taking time for oneself in a busy life. A great read for those in their last year of high school, as it opens their eyes to a deeper understanding of the many relationships and experiences in life.… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
i listened to this and my mind is easily distracted.
LibraryThing member ccayne
I was totally unprepared for the feminist emphasis in this book and was even more surprised when I saw that it was published in 1955. Lindbergh uses shells to represent phases in a woman's life. She values the interior life above all and believes that without it, we bring but a shadow of ourselves to life. I found it amusing that thought 1955 was an age of distraction; what would she think of our plugged in world of today. I particularly liked her description of an ideal marriage being between two individuals who are remain individuals yet share as well. A total surprise.… (more)
LibraryThing member glade1
This was a thoughtful, very personal reflection on the life of a woman, with island life and sea shells providing metaphorical comparisons to the various stages of life. It could be comforting or frustrating to see that the challenges of women's lives have not changed considerably since the mid-twentieth century...



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