Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It's the 1920s, and Tom Sherbourne is the new lighthouse keeper for Janus Rock, off the eastern coast of Australiia.  His wife Isabel has just suffered her third miscarriage when a boat runs aground on their island with a dead man aboard and an infant who is very much alive.  She persuades Tom not to report the boat or the body so that they can keep and raise the baby.  Tom, however, is wracked with guilt, and serious trouble ensues when they find out who the baby's parents are.  There are two things that I really did not like about this novel.  First of all, I don't quite buy it when someone like Tom, of unblemished integrity, does something really wrong.  He's not a weak person, but the moment when the baby arrives is his defining moment, and he makes a very stupid choice.  Isabel, on the other hand, is grief-stricken from the loss of three children and sees this baby as her gift from God.  She has obviously become unhinged, and Tom knows this.  OK, she turns out to be a very good mother, but I was very disappointed in Tom's failure to do the right thing in a timely manner.  After a few years have passed, the charade has gone on too long and returning the baby to her biological family is a messy proposition.  The other thing that I did not like about the plot is how it hinges on an unlikely coincidence.  The timing of the baby's arrival, shortly after Isabel's most recent miscarriage, makes the substitution of one baby for another all too easy to pull off.  That said, morbid curiosity drove me to keep reading, and I have to say that I rather liked the ending—not too sour and not too sweet.

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