Ember Island Book Review

Ember Island Book Review

Title: Ember Island
Author: Kimberley Freeman
Published: 2013, Touchstone
No. of Pages: 429
Cover Price: $16.00 US

In Kimberley Freeman’s Novel Ember Island, Nina Jones is a celebrated writer, having published a series of bestsellers that have been adapted for television. She is under pressure to get her fourth manuscript to her publisher, but suffers from a terrible case of writer’s block and decides to go to Ember Island, where she owns a home that belonged to her grandmother, Nell. It’s located on an Island near Australia, and during the 1800s was home to a prison. There has been a huge storm and Nina hires Joe to strip the walls and take care of the repairs; while working, he finds several stashes of her grandmother’s diary pages hidden between the bricks. A reporter has been trying to get Nina to call her, and threatens to ruin Nina’s career with some very serious charges.

Matilda (Tilly) has fallen in love with Jasper, and her Grandfather wants her to marry him. During the wedding festivities, however, Tilly’s grandfather falls ill, so Jasper goes to his far away estate in the Channel Islands without her so she can nurse her grandfather back to health. As was the custom in the late 1800s, estates were entailed, and since Tilly is a female, she cannot inherit her Grandfather’s estate in Dorset. Several months later, when her grandfather dies, the estate goes to her malevolent cousin, Godfrey and his selfish wife, Pamela, and Tilly is immediately forced out. Luckily, Tilly’s grandfather gives her several gifts from the house before he dies, that she can take with her, and also a box filled with money. When Tilly finely arrives at what she expects to be a grand estate named Lumière sur la Mer, she finds that most of the furniture and furnishings have been sold – the house is almost bare – and also that her husband will have nothing to do with her. He also takes the valuable things that her grandfather gave her and tells her that he must sell them to settle debts. She gives Jasper her jewelry, some of the pieces being given to her from her mother who died when she was young, to settle the debts. Luckily, she hides the money in the garden shed where Jasper doesn’t ever go.

Tilly learns that her husband is in love with someone else, and that he married her because her grandfather paid a huge sum of money for him to do so. Things are not as they seem, and Tilly finds herself in grave danger. She feels responsible for an accidental fire and the deaths of Jasper and his girlfriend, and flees the country, ending up on Ember Island as a governess to Nell, an only child whose mother has recently died. During Tilly’s time on Ember Island, she befriends a female inmate who killed her husband, and feels like she can assuage her guilt by helping this friend, who is innocent and is a victim to the erroneous prejudices against women during that time, escape. Tilly puts her life on the line for her friend, and almost loses it.

During the course of this historical thriller, Freeman is able to seamlessly connect the fascinating stories as they relate to both the 1890s and the year 2012. While there is some minimal romance in the novel, the prevalent themes are guilt, friendship, insecurity, betrayal, courage, and the historical discrimination of women. Freeman’s description of the island is such that readers will feel like they have actually seen it and feel a part of it. There are unexpected twists and turns as the stories unfold, and the ending is surprising. This well-written novel is highly recommended. It is unique, and is not the run-of-the-mill whodunit suspense novel, but the characters are wonderful, and readers will wish that they could actually meet them. Kimberley Freeman is an excellent writer; it is difficult to find anything negative about the book, and the Australian setting is charming.

Special thanks to Maria Wheelan from Simon & Schuster for supplying a copy of this book.

This book may be purchased at Amazon: Ember Island: A Novel

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