Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after fighting on the western front during World War I. He is struggling emotionally with what we would now call post-traumatic stress. However, back then, Tom is mainly struggling with guilt at all the lives he had to take. Tom takes up a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, which is an isolated island. The closest town is Point Partageuse which is where Tom meets Isabel Graysmark before his departure.
Tom enjoys his life as a lighthouse keeper and being the only one of the island. His only visitors are those from the supply boat who arrive once every season. Tom is full of integrity and keeps to his routine and logs the record books meticulously. After a few seasons, he returns to Point Partageuse to marry Isabel, who agrees to move to the island with him. As they attempt to start a family of their own, tragedy strikes. Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth. As Isabel visits her son’s grave one day, she hears a baby’s cry. A dinghy has washed ashore carrying the body of a man and a baby girl.
The decision Isabel and Tom make next will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
While the story may seem predictable enough from here, Stedman manages to weave it beautifully to keep the reader hooked. The sadness is gripping and you hope against hope for a fairytale ending. This is a book about guilt, honesty, justice and morality. Tom is a man so bound by honour, he finds it hard to keep a terrible secret even for the good of his wife. He is willing to sacrifice himself and it’s all you can do as a reader to not weep.
All in all, it’s a bittersweet story about love and loss. The characters are realistically drawn and it’s not hard to empathise with them. In fact, it’s to Stedman’s credit that even though I don’t want children and have never felt the need to have one, I was hurting with Isabel and felt her pain throughout the book.
***This has been read and reviewed for the 2016 Aussie Author Challenge***
Until next time,