Would you like to get away from it all? Do you have the
stamina to become a lighthouse keeper? In this first novel
by M.L. Stedman, we are transported to Janus Rock—a tiny
island one hundred miles off the coast of Australia–sitting in
the Indian Ocean.
When Tom Sherburne first sees the light after climbing seven, eight
spiral flights of stairs to the tower, he sees a giant lens, taller than
himself. “A palace of prisms like a beehive made from glass . . .”
He begins his duties after the supply boat leaves him—the boat
not scheduled to return for three months–and dutifully records the
conditions and operations of the light four times each day.
The author gradually introduces Isabel, the love interest, and also
intersperses some background history of Tom, and his service in World
Tom and Isabel marry and she accepts the life, being the wife of the
lightkeeper. Their marriage brings extreme happiness and they look
forward to the birth of their baby. But they lose three infants in
One day, unbelievably, a boat is washed ashore at the island of
Janus Rock. In the boat are a dead man and a crying baby.
From this point, the plot of the novel twists and turns, until the
reader isn’t sure how the book should end. Or maybe the reader
*is* sure how the book should end and is disappointed.
Whatever your viewpoint, this book is sure to inspire discussion
of human and moral issues in your book club as it did ours.
Questions to consider: why did the author choose the name
Janus Rock for the island with the lighthouse?
Would the plot have worked as well if Tom was a pharmacist?
Did you find it believable that Lucy appeared unscarred when
she visited Tom years later?
How important are the early years of a child’s life?