The author was inspired to write about the wild island of the New Hebrides after having spent happy times there in her childhood. She loved the history and the beauty of the area, and her family lineage reaches back to the Isle of Skye. She has cleverly woven a tale of the past and the present, and included an ancient murder, as well as romance. The story begins with a young woman, Hetty, who has come to see her inheritance, once a wonderful old manor house, now a wreck, which is only accessible when the tide is out.
As she arrives unannounced at the house, she finds that locals, who have been caring for it, have discovered bones under the floorboards. The house is derelict, and in a terrible state, but this discovery must be reported to the mainland police. At this time in the story, we are introduced to Beatrice, and the time moves back to 1910. She has come to the house as the new bride of Theo Blake, a famous Scottish artist, and owner of the manor. Beatrice falls in love with the surrounds, and every day walks and finds new and wonderful bays and coves, and stories.
There are many issues which arise gradually, and Beatrice becomes aware of Theo’s disinterest with his very poor tenants, and crofters. He becomes angry when she and the factor’s son (Cameron) mention the poverty of the crofters, so Beatrice tries to help them a little. Gradually Theo stops painting, with interesting discussions about the invention of the camera, and how this will make painters redundant. Theo’s sister Emily, and her fiancé, come to visit the island. Emily brings cheer and brightness to the house, and arranges beach parties. It is here that a bond begins to form between Beatrice and Cameron. He is passionate about preserving the wild life, in particular the birds, as is she.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Hetty is determined to discover the history and plight of the people who lived in the Manor house. She researches, and discovers photos of how the house looked, learning more about Beatrice and Theo and how their lives unfolded.
This is a fascinating merging of the past and the present, and even though Hetty’s dreams of restoring the Manor house are shattered, she discovers a great love for the area and also the people. Forensic scientists have removed the bones from under the floorboards, and using DNA from the local population, can reveal the murdered person’s identity.
Sarah’s intimate knowledge of the wild and windswept areas means her descriptive passages make you feel as if you are there. The remoteness of the island, the cry of the gulls, and the pristine sands, lure the reader into the story.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|