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Review: The Keepers Of The Lighthouse by Kaye Dobbie

on August 11, 2022

The Keepers Of The Lighthouse
Kaye Dobbie
Harlequin AUS
2022, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: 1882 

Laura Webster and her father are the stalwart keepers of Benevolence Island Lighthouse, a desolate place stranded in the turbulent Bass Strait. When a raging storm wrecks a schooner just offshore, the few survivors take shelter with the Websters, awaiting rescue from the mainland. But some of the passengers have secrets that lead to dreadful consequences, the ripples of which echo far into the future …

2020 

Nina and her team of volunteers arrive on Benevolence to work on repairs, with plans to open up the island to tourists. Also on the expedition, for reason of his own, is Jude Rawlins, a man Nina once loved. A man who once destroyed her.

But the idyllic location soon turns into a nightmare as random acts of sabotage leave them with no communication to the mainland and the sense of someone on the island who shouldn’t be there.

The fingers of those secrets from the passengers lost long ago are reaching into the present, and Nina will never be the same again … 

I really, really enjoyed this.

I love a dual timeline story and this delivered in every sense of the word. It’s mostly split into two, 1882 and 2020 with a few brief forays into about 2010 for clarification of a backstory.

In 1882, we have Laura, a woman in her mid 20s who lives with her father, her stepmother and baby brother on an island in-between Tasmania and mainland Australia. It’s her father’s job to man the lighthouse so that ships might navigate the dangerous waters of Bass Strait. Although the island is a creation of the author, it is loosely based on a real island. For Laura, the isolation doesn’t bother her. The only get supply drops every so often and she isn’t worried by the harsh conditions. She thrives on the lifestyle, helping her father in ways that aren’t common for ladies in this time, proving to be a hard worker and excellent swimmer. When a boat wrecks in the rocks just off the island in a terrible storm, Laura and her family do their best to rescue and help the survivors, unaware that they’re about to be thrown deep into a mystery.

In 2020, Nina is leading a team to fix up that same island, make it habitable and desirable for tourists again. She’s well aware that her boss is keeping an eye on her from afar and expects Nina to pull this off without a hitch, which could be an issue when she realises documentary maker Jude Rawlins, a former boyfriend that there is unfinished business with, has also wangled his way onto the island. But that’s not the biggest problem – when strange things start happening that reek of sabotage, there’s a possibility that someone else is on the island that shouldn’t be.

This was such an engrossing read from start to finish. I really enjoyed both timelines – in fact often so much I would not want to leave one when a chapter ended but then the second I started the other timeline again, I wouldn’t want to leave that to go back to the original one! Often in dual timeline books, I find myself preferring one over the other but in this case I was equally invested and really enjoyed sinking into both timelines. I have a bit of a romanticised ideal about what it must’ve been like to live on a remote island, even though I do not at all think I could cope with the weather in Bass Strait! I think it would definitely take a very strong person (or family) to be able to deal with such a task especially as there are no days off in those times, the lighthouse had to be manned. Now everything is managed with technology and there’s little to no need for lighthouse keepers. Laura is strong and confident, not swayed by other people’s opinions of how she should behave (even when they’re well meaning, not necessarily mean) and she knows the sort of life that she wants.

In the present day, Nina is under a lot of stress, both with the arrival of Jude, someone that she has a very significant past with, and professionally as well. The two are also linked, because Jude being there could definitely affect her being able to do her job. The two of them were in love over a decade ago and I think when you tear a couple apart like that, the reader needs to really be able to believe that the reason was something that was that bad, that at the time, one of them couldn’t see a way out of it. And that really was successful here, as Nina’s story unfolds over the course of her chapters, it becomes so apparent why she is still suffering so much and how much it still impacts her day to day life. And in the case of Jude, he comes off a bit antagonistic at the beginning but you can see that he still, is hurting deeply after all this time and he just wants answers. Both of them are thrown together to puzzle out the fact that someone who shouldn’t be there seems to be on the island which brings up a lot of old hurts and issues but gives Nina the chance to be strong and finally confess her secret to Jude.

I found both of the mysteries intriguing and this was paced so well – definitely a real page turner!

9/10

Book #138 of 2022

Going to include this one in my 2022 Historical Fiction Reader Challenge as at least half of it is set in 1882. It’s the 37th book read for the challenge.


2 responses to “Review: The Keepers Of The Lighthouse by Kaye Dobbie

  1. This sounds absolutely wonderful – I love The Lighthouse as a setting and books with dual timelines.
    Excellent review!

    • Thank you! Yes I love a dual timeline too and this one was such an excellent example. And I just became really interested in the isolation of living on the island, even though I know in reality it wouldn’t appeal to me in practical terms!

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