cover image The Alphabet of Light and Dark

The Alphabet of Light and Dark

Danielle Wood, . . Allen & Unwin, $14.95 (338pp) ISBN 978-1-74114-065-1

Set in the remote terrain of Bruny Island off the southern coast of Tasmania, Wood's evocative but static debut novel brings together a pair of troubled would-be lovers as they try to come to terms with their difficult pasts. Essie Lewis, a 30ish oceanographer, returns to the island from Perth to become the lighthouse keeper, a position that has played a prominent role in her family history. As she settles in, she runs into former childhood friend Pete Shelverton, a welder and metal sculptor who has buried himself in the task of ridding the island of feral cats. Wood details Essie's life through a series of diaries and documents from her past that outline the arc of her family; Pete's difficulties with women and socializing in general are less fully drawn. When they do come together, it is brief, awkward and incomplete. The one-note plot and sketchy romance put all of the burden on the island-as-exotic-locale and its history, and on Essie's own past there. The results are often lyrical, but end up less than satisfying. (Jan.)