‘There was one road into Wellington Point and one road out.’
Alex Dove has returned to (the fictional town of) Wellington Point on the east coast of Tasmania after twelve years in England. He was eleven years old when he was sent to school in England after his parents were killed in a car accident. Alex has inherited his parents’ unprofitable farm and his father’s collection of ships in bottles.
‘The weekend Alex met Merridy he had driven to Wellington Point to look for ice-cream sticks in the school rubbish tins.’
Merridy comes to Wellington Point with her own parents: her father in a wheelchair needing care, her mother there from a sense of duty. Merridy has abandoned her studies in Melbourne to help her parents. Merridy and Alex are drawn together. They marry and are determined to make a success of life on Alex’s farm with the family they intend to have. Merridy finds a flair for oyster farming, which helps relieve financial pressures.
But things do not go according to plan and they are already becoming strangers to each other when the sinking of a ship in a storm brings Kish into their lives. Kish is part of a semi-literate crew of young offenders serving on a replica brigantine as part of a rehabilitation programme. Though the young delinquent seems truculent and disturbed, the couple take him into their home, which allows Alex to ‘indulge the extravagant idea that he had plucked from the sea a child he never had’, while Merridy finds him reminiscent of her lost brother, Hector.
I loved the setting of this novel, on the east coast of Tasmania, near the town of Swansea. This is a beautiful part of Tasmania, rich in history and naturally beautiful. I envisaged Talbot’s Store as Morris’ Store in Swansea, with its views over the main road and across the bay. The story moved slowly at times, but I did not mind, until Kish entered the story. Kish’s presence jarred, for me, and while I kept reading, my interest waned.
I finished the novel, delighted by the description of Wellington Point and the surrounding country, and hoping that the future would be kinder for the main characters.