It is set on a tiny uninhabited Australian island, Janus, in the years after the first World War. Tom is the lighthouse keeper on Janus and lives there in solitude until his wife, Isabel, joins him. Isabel longs for a child but suffers 3 miscarriages. Then a baby is washed up on the island, in a boat with a dead man and a decision has to be made. Isabel wants to keep the baby and pass it off as the one she has just lost. Tom knows this isn’t the right thing to do but can’t bear to upset his grieving wife.
The rest of the novel deals with the fall-out from the decision that is made.
M. L. Stedman was born in Australia but now lives in London. Incredibly, this is her first novel. According to an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald the book was subject to a bidding war and went for ‘a high six-figure sum’. Stedman has given few interviews which may also explain why I can’t find a website for her.
The book is full of detail about lighthouse keeping at the time and must have required an incredible amount of research. But Stedman has such a light touch, so it doesn’t feel like the reader is being force-fed facts. Instead Stedman makes it easy for the reader to be there on Janus with Tom and Isabel, experiencing their roller-coaster emotions.
The novel will be published in the UK on 26th April 2012 (I was lucky enough to have a review copy from Waterstone’s) – don’t miss it!