“An extraordinary and heart-rending book about good people, tragic decisions and the beauty found in each of them.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
The book is set in Partageuse, South West Australia. Tom Sherbourne, just home from the First World War takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock to counteract the effects of war; needing the silence and nature to soothe his troubled mind. The island is miles off the coast of Partageuse and the store boat only visits every three months, the lighthouse keeper is granted a month’s leave every three years. Tom is meticulous in carrying out his duties and is principled and disciplined. I loved Tom’s character, his quiet dignity and diligence, the love he felt for his wife. A good man put in a terrible position.
Whilst on leave in Partageuse, Tom meets Izzy, the two fall in love and move back to Janus to start married life together. Izzy’s greatest wish is to have a child and when she suffers two miscarriages and then a stillbirth, she is heartbroken.
The crux of the story comes into being when a boat is washed up with a dead man and a baby inside. Against every moral fibre of his being, Tom is convinced by Izzy to let her keep the baby. You know this is not going to end well.
The descriptions of the island and the lighthouse with the weather and the sense of isolation are just wonderful, so evocative that it has you yearning for life on Janus.
The genius of this book is making all the characters real, normal, flawed individuals who are ultimately good people with such tragic life stories that you really feel for them and understand the decisions made…until you meet the person who has been affected by that decision, who is also a good person who life hasn’t treated at all well. The layers keep peeling away like onion skins and you are forced to confront your own moral standpoint.
The author has created the ultimate moral dilemma and this book is deeply, deeply affecting and so emotional, it had me sobbing through parts of it. The story covers all sorts of emotions; love, guilt, grief, morality, remorse, but with such a deft hand that although it is heart rending, it is also beautiful and immensely readable. Unbelievable that this is a debut novel.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough and as it is going to be released as a film in the autumn now is the perfect time to read it.
Added 20th April 2016