In the early half of the twentieth century, lighthouse keeper Tom and his young wife Isabel are living on an isolated life on an island far off the coast of the Australian mainland. The conditions are tough, contact with the outside world is few and far between and the job is demanding, but they make it their home.
It’s a life that seems perfect, but for one thing. Isabel is unable to carry a baby to term. After numerous heartbreaks, all seems lost. Then a boat washes ashore, carrying the body of a dead man and a very much alive baby girl. The decision they make that day, to not report the wreck and to keep the baby and raise it as their own, will set into motion a chain of events that will last for years to come.
The book questions our morality, and asks whether doing something you know is wrong can ever be right. It also questions what makes a parent – is it the person that’s raises a child or the person that gives birth to it?
The answer to both of these questions, from a straightforward point of view, is fairly obvious. But somehow the author manages to make us question our own principles and where our sympathies lie.
It’s obvious that one person’s happiness will mean another’s despair, and the honesty and emotion that Stedman writes with really did get me emotional. The situation isn’t black and white, and it actually makes for some quite uncomfortable reading in places, as you know that it’s heading towards a car crash style ending for all involved.
The setting of the lighthouse completely isolates Tom and Isabel from the wider world, and they are left with only their morals to guide them. It’s only when they are forced to re-enter society that they truly realise the severity of their impulsive actions. I really invested with all of the characters, even though sometimes I didn’t agree with their actions.
This is the kind of book I would have loved to have read as part of a group. There are some points that would make for some really great discussions, and I’m sure there would have been lots of different opinions!
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