This is a jewel of a novel. It does what many new novels have forgotten to do, or at least have forgotten to do first. It tells a story. And, impressively, since it’s 343 pages, every bit counts. The carefully constructed setting and the way that WW1 haunts the story all contribute to a story that’s in two parts. The first is the one that is advertised. A couple lives on Janus Rock. He is a lighthouse keeper. She is his wife. After three unsuccessful pregnancies, a baby washes up on shore, and they – she, actively and he, more but not completely passively, make a decision.
And you just know it’s going to unravel. Still, Stedman lays it delicately and carefully. She knows just how long to keep things going (deteriorating really) until, inevitably, things fall apart.
And the second act, if you will, of this book, is equally impressive. I will not offer any spoilers, but the ripple effects of the decision they made on the island ripples everywhere in this small community, most especially between the husband and wife. And every crack in the community that is trying desperately to hold itself together after WW1 becomes larger in a convincing fashion. Somehow, amidst all of this bleakness, Stedman finds hope.
A great book. And it’s her first novel!