Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ember Island ~ a review

This is the first Kimberly Freeman book I have read. It has set a standard that some of the subsequent books I've been given to review have failed to live up to, and the story positively captured me from beginning to end.

You can read the back page blurb here.

How I love Australian history. Our story is not in the buildings, wars or events, but in the people who made the country and provided our heritage. Ember Island portrays this truth in a touching and vivid way. Set between past and present, it is clear this story is character driven and this makes it impossible to put down.

I have to say how much I loved the sections set in the past and am glad much of the page time is spent there. The present day scenes are entertaining and hold life lessons we can learn from. The best thing about this book is that it is refreshing, and it is different. Some people aren't bothered by reading the same old stuff. Personally I latch onto anything that isn't a stereotype.

Tilly's journey becomes heart-wrenching very quickly. It is easy to feel for her, and the closeness she yearns for makes her humanity so tangible. The treatment she receives following the death of her Grandfather spurs her onward until she reaches a point where she will stop for no one. The temper she has been strenuously instructed to keep under wraps is a cauldron on the boil while she struggles against her better sense to do things 'right' in the proper ways expected of a Victorian lady. Yet her circumstances are anything but proper.

The palpable atmosphere Tilly endures and searches out creates a stunning backdrop as the plot unfolds, and makes this book a real standout amongst recent others I have read (or failed to read because of what they lacked). Her naivety is endearing as well as scary, until at last the results of her actions reach dramatic and terrifying heights and she becomes a woman entrapped by her lies.

Rocket forward most gently and seamlessly to the present day where Nina is living in a self-made tangled web. Her arrival at Starwater House is fuelled more by escape than the need to make sure all is well following a sizeable storm that has wracked her heritage home on the island. Nina's path of discovery to personal and professional truth is led with help from her handyman, Joe, and her best friend, Stacy.

In between these two women is Nell, a precocious young lady on the verge of womanhood when she meets Tilly, and the very late grandmother to Nina. Much of the story is conveyed through Nell, and she is an outright pleasure to traverse the pages with. Her father's gentleness and love are conveyed so beautifully, and their relationship really is something special.

Clergy generally cop a hammering in modern secular books, and in fairness, not all of church history is worthy of a glowing report. Here, the experiences the characters have with faith are varied, and it prevails that while not everyone is deserving of grace, those who are given it will take advantage of it for better or for worse. If the despairing soul can take hold of it with both hands and drinks deeply of its salvation, promise lies right around the corner.

Human nature can always be relied upon for so many things, not the least of which here is the need for trust, the desire for companionship, and the brutality of emotions given full vent. I will give nothing more away. Ember Island is a book that will stay with me for a long while yet. The clarity and light of the story should not be missed.

My sincere thanks also to Kimberly Freeman for such a lovely glimpse into our history, and in doing it justice with this poignant telling.


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