Book Review: Ember Island By Kimberley Freeman

EMBER ISLAND
A Novel

By: Kimberly Freeman

Published: April 15, 2014

Fiction

If you love novels that give you stories from the past and the present, this novel is for you.  If you love novels with strong female characters, this novel is for you.  If you love novels with twists and surprises that will keep you guessing all the way to the end, this novel is for you.

If you were shopping for a book, wouldn’t this cover just jump right out at you? I think covers are really important in the selection of a book.  It is the first thing that catches your eye and makes you want to find out more.  If I hadn’t received this book in the mail, this is a book I would have picked up, for the cover alone.

In EMBER ISLAND we are given two stories set over 120 years apart.  Both stories are located on the same remote island off of Australia, called Ember Island.  We first meet Tilly who is currently caring for her dying grandfather after her quick marriage to her husband, Jasper.  After her grandfather dies, Tilly is finally able to join Jasper in their home, but finds their marriage isn’t what she dreamed. After a horrific night, Tilly flees and finds a job as a governess on Ember Island for the precocious daughter of the prison superintendent.  The daugher, Eleanor, or Nell, is a bright 12-year old who finds herself eavesdropping on her father and Tilly more than studying her Latin.  This curiosity could cause her trouble or save them all.

We jump to 2012 and meet Nina, an established author with some serious writer’s block.  She has retreated to Ember Island and her great-grandmother, Nell’s home to find some inspiration.  While there she finds slips of paper tucked all over the house detailing stories of Nell’s childhood.  Can these give her the inspiration she needs to write her next book?

Even though this book travels back and forth through the past and the present, it isn’t done with every other chapter, but after several chapters, so you feel like you can really get into the story of the time and the characters involved. I didn’t have any trouble following along with the different characters in each time period and found myself getting attached mostly to Tilly, whom the story is really about.

I think female readers will identify with Tilly since she is someone who truly cares about others, but due to some bad circumstance and bumps in the road, has found herself in situations that she can no longer control. Tilly’s anger and frustrations got in the way of her best intentions and she becomes worried that those consequences will catch up to her.  Like Tilly, I think most of us can think of situations we would like the chance to “do over” and readers will identify with her guilt and pain over the choices she has made.

Nina has also found herself in a sticky situation that she isn’t sure she can recover from as well.  The past may end up catching up with her but with the help of her best friend, Stacy, and Joe, the handyman, she may be able find herself on path she never could have imagined.

There were several great quotes from this novel that I loved so much, all from Tilly’s character.

Her mind was out there, in the cane fields, with the prisoners chained, one to another, for their sins. She had chains for her sins too, attaching her forever to things she couldn’t run from and no golden plant high enough to hid behind.  Page 211
“I left a world behind me, and I feel I haven’t arrived in a new one yet. 
I have often thought an island is the perfect place for me. 
It’s neither here nor there, it’s somewhere in between other places.”  Page 229
“There is no such thing as too much love,” Tilly said, her voice growing hot. 
“One can’t measure or control it. 
One must simply feel it. It is the only moral thing to do.”  Page 351 

I think these snippets from EMBER ISLAND really share some great pieces of Tilly’s character and why I found myself rooting for her all the way through.  Even though I was a huge fan of Tilly and the other two main characters, Nina, and Nell, there were also some equally interesting supporting characters.  Hettie, the female prison inmate has a huge impact on Tilly’s life.  Sterling, Nell’s father, was a man that I would love on one page and get angry at on the next one. Jasper, Tilly’s husband, made my skin crawl. Joe, Nina’s hired man, along with his son, bring a lightness to the novel at just the right time. Finally, Stacy, Nina’s best friend, was the kind of friend every woman hopes to have.

EMBER ISLAND is the perfect novel for book clubs.  There are discussion questions included in the back of the book, but I think members would find much to discuss in the stories of Tilly, Nell, and Nina. Trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and love are central themes to EMBER ISLAND. The rich descriptions of the land and sea off the coast of Australia may just make you want to visit there.  You  can, at the very least, go there in your mind, thanks to the vivid pictures Freeman depicts in both the past and present part of the stories.

Kimberley Freeman – source

Kimberley Freeman is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction, who has an alter-ego as a fantasy writer under her real name Kim Wilkins. She has a PhD in English and teaches on faculty at the University of Queensland. She lives in Brisbane with an assortment of children and pets. For more on Kimberley, visit her at http://kimberleyfreeman.com/. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE

To purchase EMBER ISLAND, click the photo below:.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending a copy of this novel for the purpose of this review.  This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the novel through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews.

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