Follow Us @burtonreview

Apr 12, 2013

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

April 9, 2013

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman
Fiction/Historical blend
Simon and Schuster; April 9, 2013
Paperback 420 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

I was very excited to be offered this one because the last novel I'd read by this author had made it to my favorites/Best of 2011 List.

From the author of Wildflower Hill, this breathtaking novel travels more than a century between two love stories set in the Australian seaside town of Lighthouse Bay.

In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne, who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. This gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family. But whom can she trust in Lighthouse Bay?

Fast-forward to 2011: after losing her lover, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay, hoping to gain some perspective and grieve her recent loss. Libby also attempts to reconcile with her sister, Juliet, to whom she hasn’t spoken in twenty years. Libby did something so unforgivable, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

In these two adventurous love stories, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future. The answers they seek lie in Lighthouse Bay.

After a very mysterious prologue, the story starts off with the contemporary setting of Libby as she returns to her hometown in Australia after leaving it for twenty years. Seeking a rebirth and perhaps hiding a bit from a shameful life as a mistress to a married man, Libby has little sense of belonging anywhere. She is unsure of her future plans, and her estranged sister isn't welcoming her with open arms. Juliet and Libby will have to come to an understanding of forgiveness in order for them to have any future together as a family cohabiting the same small town.

A century before, there is a shipwreck and only one survivor. After washing up on the shore near Lighthouse Bay, Isabella has no desire of being discovered,  and she takes on another identity. As a member of the esteemed and powerful Winterbourne family she has to lay low in order to keep her secrets, but when she shows up in a small community it is hard for her to go unnoticed. Isabella has choices to make for her future - but can she outrun her past?

These two stories are lightly intertwined with each other as they follow a similar theme of regrets, remorse and  the knowledge that your past makes up you are today. Forgiveness and redemption are themes of these two women who are unrelated but both dependent on the same community (in different ways). Isabella is close to madness with grief for her dead infant, and it follows her throughout the journey.

I normally have a preference for a specific character when juxtaposing timelines like this, but I felt connected to both Isabella and Libby. In the contemporary world, it is easy to portray Libby as a shallow individual with little morals, but the reader would need to be able to see past the modern values to get to Libby's heart. The character of Isabella was perhaps a bit more intriguing only because of the suspense of whether her secrets will be kept, and after such grievous losses it is easy to empathize with her. I enjoyed the story in the author's writing, and surprisingly the switching of timelines and characters was done seamlessly. There were romantic moments, poignant moments, and great storytelling for these two different women who were worlds apart but both going through their own thing. Minor characters also do a good job of adding substance to the story so that we get a real sense of the community at Lighthouse Bay in Australia. I love Freeman's writing style and recommend her work to readers for her strong female characters and the intriguing plots she spins for them.