What’s it all about?:
Richard and Judy summer bookclub read 2013, Goodreads category winner, and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013, stunning story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who face a life-changing moral dilemma.
A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.
They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: Did you believe in Tom and Isabel’s relationship at the beginning?
BETH: Good question! I have to say, I kind of didn’t. I need to read something that for me is quite believable and it seemed that they got together just a little bit too fast. Okay, he was seconded on Janus Rock for three years before they decided to get married, so in that way they waited, but during that time, they didn’t have a chance to get to know each other properly, in my opinion.
BETH: What did you think of the title of this novel? How does it reflect the story to come?
CHRISSI: I’m not sure what I expected from reading the title. I didn’t expect the story to have some philosophical aspects. I kind of think in a cringey way that Lucy/Grace was the light between the two families.
CHRISSI: Is the use of Janus Rock effective as a setting?
BETH: I thought the island of Janus was so beautiful as a setting, with the lighthouse towering over. For me, there was a lot of potential solitude and loneliness expressed by this island, but I loved how they had the oceans on both side, jobs to do including animals to look after that kept them busy, and were able to walk around the island and admire the scenery.
BETH: How do you think Tom’s early experiences as a soldier affected his character and his actions through the novel?
CHRISSI: I think Tom was completely shattered by his experiences as a soldier. I got the feeling that he didn’t believe he should be alive when his friends weren’t. I think he felt like he should be isolated, so he took the lighthouse keeper position. I think his relationship with Isabel made him more content, but then when Lucy/Grace came along he started to question what was right and wrong to do in his situation. I think he wanted to make Isabel happy, so he kept the baby, because Isabel was what was constant in his life and he didn’t want change again. I think feeling like a family unit made Tom feel complete again.
CHRISSI: Do you think Isabel was justified for feeling angry at her husband for doing what he thought was right?
BETH: Yes, I think so. The woman had just had three miscarriages, she was completely isolated from her friends and her parents on the island for emotional support, and I think any mother would react the way she did.
BETH: What did you think of Isabel as a character?
CHRISSI: Tough one. I thought she fell in love so quickly at first that I was a bit dubious. I really felt for her when she went through her miscarriages. I also felt sorry for her because she was so isolated from everyone. I felt joy for her when she got what she wanted, but then overall I don’t think she came across as very likeable. She was intense.
CHRISSI: If you were in the position of decided whether Lucy-Grace should go back to her family or not, what do you think you’d do? (Given the emotional impact on Lucy-Grace)
BETH: Hard one. If a child spends her early formative years with two people who she learns to trust and love, and those people in turn learn to become the child’s parents, taking her away can do more damage than good. However, you have to look at the other side, that she should be with her biological mother, and is young enough that she would be likely to forget most of her early years.
BETH: How do you think that you would cope living on an island like our characters?
CHRISSI: I think that would entirely depend upon who I was with. I think I’d quite like it to start with, but I would need my luxuries for sure. So it couldn’t be a deserted island. I think after a few weeks I would start to feel incredibly isolated. I’m not sure I could do it long-term!
CHRISSI: What did you think of Tom and Isabel’s relationship at the end?
BETH: I actually thought their relationship at the end was a lot more believable. They seemed more like ordinary couples who have had issues in their relationships and are trying to work through them. I especially warmed to Tom during this period, where he was trying to help Isabel through a tough period.
BETH: Was this novel what you expected?
CHRISSI: I thought it was a lot slower than I expected, but once I got into it, it was incredibly easy to read. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t adore it.
Would we recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes I would.
BETH’S Star Rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):