You spend your whole time on an island looking out to sea. It’s a kind of meditation. Perhaps what you’re really facing is yourself.
~ Robyn Mundy
I’m a bibliophile, always with a number of books on the go at the same time. Recently I realised that by reading four books concurrently I wasn’t taking in much information. I was reading only at night before sleeping and each night a different book — and lately, only non-fiction. I usually take notes while I read — new words, quotes, interesting facts — but when I read my notes later, I couldn’t recall their context.
Wildlight, the new novel by Australian author, Robyn Mundy was on my shelf to be read but because of my search (read insatiable thirst) for information on writing, reading, meditation, living simply and passionately — I had only read a couple of pages.
I decided to take a moment… well… a morning to read and be still.
Wildlight is an exquisite book. I loved the beautiful prose so much, I decided share a review here. This is another first for me — although I’ve been a reader all my life, I’ve never penned a review except for school and university assignments. I’ve always been shy about sharing my thoughts, but this is the year of YES so sharing about things that bring me joy is overcoming the fear and another way to show up!
To Wildlight . . .
Australian author, Robyn Mundy takes you to Maatsuker Island, a remote, uninhabited Island situated off the south western coast of Tasmania. The island is a wild, windy, very cold place where the main character, Stephanie reluctantly relocates for five months with her parents as caretakers of the lighthouse on the island. They are a sad group — struggling to come to terms with the death of Stephanie’s twin bother Callum, each dealing with their grief in different ways.
There is much sadness in the novel — dysfunctional family relationships, the different ways grief can affect people — but it’s also a story of love, of finding your way, about chance, and how your experience of a place can shape your future.
. . . air curls around the lighthouse like a whisper. Place. Memory, Love. Loss. All the forces that shape a person — not into the neat, symmetrical vessel she thought her life would be, but this, the past pulling at the edges, knotted strands of that long-ago girl wound within the woman.
The novel begins in 1995 and follows sixteen year old Stephanie’s deeply affecting experience of life on and around Maatsuyker Island. Stephanie is lonely until she befriends Tom, a nineteen year old deckhand who works on his brother Frank’s crayfishing boat. Tom is unhappy with his life, his fear of the sea only marginally greater than his loathing for the illegal fishing he is involved in.
The novel reveals its mysteries and secrets slowly, juxtaposed with the dynamic, sometimes menacing weather, the wildlife, and the wild ocean. It’s all in vivid detail. The wind, rain, movement of the ocean, the scent of the wild tea tree, the odour of wet mutton birds, the foetid smell of rotting kelp, swirled around me as I turned the pages. Birds, seals, the crayfishing boats and of course, the lighthouse, around which the story evolves.
I could see it all in my mind’s eye through the author’s words. Language can truly make your imagination soar!
Like this. . .
The night was still, the sky enormous. A great swathe of constellations glittered through the sky, brighter, stronger as darkness deepened, like someone winding up the volume.
And this. . .
Tom turns to the ocean, sees lines of phosphorescence, waves snapping at the sand. He listens hard and hears the ocean cackle.
The last few chapters returns us to the present, to 2015 when Tom and Stephanie are adults, their lives shaped not only by their experiences on the island, but by chance. Not everything in the story is neatly brought to a conclusion. I was left wondering . . .
I enjoyed the book immensely. The beautiful prose and the vivid descriptions had me wanting to devour the book in one sitting and I had to force myself to take it slowly, save some for another day.
Undeniably, Robyn Mundy has a love of wild, remote places. Her first book The nature of ice (which is on my list to read), is set in Antarctica. She works seasonally on tours to the Antarctic and other remote places and spent four months on Maatsyuker Island with her partner as volunteer lighthouse caretakers as a prelude to writing Wildlight.
The 125 year old Maatsuker Island lighthouse, neglected and left to decay for many years, is now being restored by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife service and the Friends of Maatsuker Island.
I leave you with a final quote from the book:
The lighthouse glass was sunlight punching through the back of a wave and that’s how she saw it, the swirl and twist and how the ocean’s energy seemed locked inside the glass. Light set it in motion.
If you like wild places and you’re curious about place and its effect on people and how chance can impact the choices they make, I highly recommend Wildlight.
Author: Robyn Mundy
Published: 2016 by Pan Macmillan Australia