Review No.140 – Ember Island

Ember Island – Kimberley Freeman

Hachette Australia, 2013

Nina Jones is a desperate woman. With the overdue deadlines for her fourth novel weighing heavily on her and a crippling case of writer’s block, she seizes on the first available excuse to disappear – overseeing the repairs at Starwater, the house she owns on Ember Island. It belonged to her great grandmother, a gifted author, and Nina hopes to find some remnants of her work still concealed there. She is not the only woman to have come here in search of refuge. Over a century ago, Tilly Kirkland fled the rubble of her home and reinvented herself as a governess on an isolated prison island. Even here, she cannot elude the grief and guilt of memory: the way she decides to do that will be the greatest risk of all.

Something I liked very much about Ember Island, and Freeman’s earlier novel Lighthouse Bay, is the respect she has for women marginalised in their own time. Their resourcefulness, intelligence and individuality are not always supported by other characters, but are always celebrated by the narrative. The element of romance was more dominant in this book than in Lighthouse Bay, which irritated me at times – romance is not a favourite genre of mine – but while I would have preferred more surprises and greater depth, this is an easy, enjoyable read with a strong sense of place.

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