I’d heard through cyberspace months ago that this book was one to watch out for, and I’ve been patiently waiting for its release. Finally secured myself a copy, and launched into it, only to wonder whether it was actually going to grab me. I started berating myself for listening to the ‘buzz’, and for again being let down by anything with hype around it … but as I went on, as I moved further into the book, the story completely pulled me in.
The story opens in 1926, people are still reeling from the horrors of war, and we meet Isabel and Tom living on an island off Western Australia, tending the lighthouse. Things aren’t perfect, as they are trying unsuccessfully to start a family. After Isabel suffers a third miscarriage, a boat washes up on shore with a dead man and a living baby on board. What follows is a mess of decisions that change their path for better and, eventually, for much, much worse.
When I ran the storyline of this book by a couple of friends today, one made the comment that it was an unrealistic premise for a book. Obviously I didn’t do the book justice in my recounting – Stedman has given the characters enough background to make their choices seem possible, even probable in the situation. What Stedman doesn’t do is provide an obvious ending, and this is where the book sinks its claws in. You just want to know how it can all possibly work out in the end.
There are a few points where the author tries to lure you off down a path to a possible alternative ending, but I don’t think they added anything to the suspense of the overall novel (which is powerful enough not to need any extras) and in fact, I was annoyed by their conspicuous attempts at distraction. This book is a page-turner – it’s not capital-L literature, but it is good. Cry? I cried my eyes out.