First, I Love (with a capital L) lighthouses. I am drawn to them, and I always try to make an effort to visit them in my travels. That is the first thing that caught my eye with this book. Then came a wave of really good reviews. Finally, the last straw arrived...my book club chose it to read for November. I couldn't get a copy of the audio (too many holds) so I bought the book. I was very excited.
While the book is a moderate length (352 pages) it took me weeks to read it. I'm always introspective about WHY it takes me so long to read some books, and I've been thinking a long time about this one. We'll get to that. First let me tell you a bit about the plot.
Synopsis: Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after four years of fighting on the Western front, damaged and haunted by the men he has killed. In a sort of act of self-punishment, he takes a job on Janus Rock, a small island a hundred miles off the coast, to manage a lighthouse. Tom relishes the isolation and precision of his record-keeping, and only gets a leave every other year or so. However, on one such leave, he meets and falls in love with a young and spirited woman named Isabel, who he eventually marries and brings to his island. The years, the harsh elements, and several miscarriages begin to wear on Isabel until a dead man and an infant wash up on the shores of Janus Rock one night. Tom's moral compass dictates the need to report such an event, but Isabel has already taken in the baby as her own and named her Lucy. After all, the mother must be dead, right? To appease his beloved wife, he buries the man and stays quiet.
Years later, while on leave, Tom learns a bit more about the circumstances surrounding Lucy's birth parents, and finds that it is all more complicated than he'd ever imagined. And he is faced with a dilemma that has the potential to destroy everything he knows and loves. It is a decision that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.
My thoughts: Because of my love for lighthouses, the idea of living on one, a hundred miles from civilization, is an alluring idea. The love affair between Tom and Isabel, and a baby showing up on the beach when Isabel is at her lowest, is intriguing as well. But. I seriously LABORED through the first half of this book. It could have been the distraction of my life, or it could have been a slow-moving plot. The reading pace was just torturous for me. Eventually, the story picked up steam and I was able to finish off strong, but there were several times when I almost threw in the towel.
The thing is, I really did like this book. I thought the ending was poignant and touching, and I even shed a tear. The plot was somewhat corny at times, but ultimately heartbreaking and realistic in emotion. I missed the book club discussion, but there was a sea or morality threaded through the pages that just begged the question "what would YOU do?". There are no easy answers. And because of this, the plight of Tom and Isabel and Lucy stuck with me for weeks. I didn't always LIKE Isabel, but I could understand where she was coming from as a mother.
So this is one of those times when it paid to stick it out. If I'd have quit at 50 or 75 pages, I'd have missed out on a great read.
4 out of 5 stars