steadmanOn Wednesday only a small group met to discuss Ashley Hay’s ‘The Railwayman’s Wife’, but fortunately most of the members contacted me to tell me their feelings on the book.

Overall, the book was not very well received. The book club felt that not alot happened, and we agreed that we are probably more interested in plot driven books.

The Railwayman’s Wife is set in 1948 in Thirroul, NSW, and tells the story of Annika Lachlan, a young woman who has recently lost her husband under tragic circumstances. As her husband worked as a railwayman, Annika is offered a position in the Thirroul Railway Library so that she can support herself and her young daughter. Annika soon meets Roy McKinnon, a poet who has returned from the war, but can not seem to find the words he needs to write, and Frank Draper who has seen so much horror in war that he is having trouble settling back into society. The novel contains beautiful langauge, and shows the different levels of grief felt by these three people as they struggle to find their way.

After some discussion, we did agree that Ashley Hay is a beautiful writer, and that she captured the grief that Annika felt exceptionally well. We also loved her descriptions of Thirroul, and could easily imagine ourselves sitting by the water and watching the poet stare out to sea.

 

On July 29 we will be meeting to discuss M.L. Steadman’s ‘The Light Between Oceans’.

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel

 

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