This book tells a quiet, contemplative story of a woman, Jen, who has moved back to a property near the small town where she grew up. Living on her own, she works on the land of her property, observing the surrounding wildlife. The descriptions of her work around the house, and the different birds that she sees, are particularly peaceful and painterly, and as a reader I felt soothed by these relaxed portraits of country life.
Jen also gives drawing lessons to a young boy called Henry, and the descriptions of these lessons, of how she instructs Henry to draw and how to use colours and paints and pencils, is told in the same gentle way as the descriptions of her home keeping.
Over the duration of the story, the reader discovers that a girl in Henry’s class at school has gone missing. It is also revealed that when Jen was Henry’s age, both her father and close friend, Michael, went missing at the same time, and there is some implication that her father may have been involved with Michael’s disappearance. The tension of wondering what has happened to this missing girl, and Jen remembering back to the disappaerance of her father and friend, Michael, is a strong contrast to the parallel story of Jen making her new home, back in her home town.
The resolution of the story is sad, but brings peace to Jen in the same quiet way that the rest of the story has been told. I loved reading this book and so enjoyed the gentle writing style that I just wanted it to keep going. Of course it had to end, so I will just have to read it again!
Before I even knew the story told in this book, I knew that I wanted to read it, just by looking at the cover! Yes, I regularly judge (and choose) books by their covers.
The gentle colours and sparkling starlight is exactly how this delightful story is written by first-time Australian author, Kate Mildenhall. It is a tender story, and so beautifully written, about two young girls, Kate and Harriet who are lighthouse keepers’ daughters and are growing up in the 1880s on an isolated Australian coast. What is particularly intriguing is that Kate Mildenhall has imagined this story based on a true event that happened.The girls’ close friendship is explored and their simple, happy lives, that involved some schooling and a lot of adventures, are described, the story being told mostly through Kate’s eyes. As readers, we also get a very good concept of how it is to live in isolation, waiting for regular supplies and mail to be delivered by boat, and supplementing supplies with a vegetable garden and livestock.
Inveitably, this idyllic life cannot last and the first hints appear as the girls approach young adulthood and meet a lone fisherman called McPhail. It is apparent that there is an attraction between Harriet and McPhail, and this, along with Harriet’s journey away from the coast to Melbourne, is what leads to the change in their girlhood relationship.
There is a warning on the back cover of the book, that a tragedy will occur, and while reading the story, there is the suspense of what is going to happen and when. While immersed in the book, and coming very close to the end, I began to believe that nothing too drastic was about to occur, so was completly shocked by the tragic event. It is a sad, but very believable end to a beautiful story.