Monday 30 October 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of No Safe Anchorage by Liz MacRae Shaw

Amazon UK £12.99
Amazon US $20.95
Amazon CA $26.95

 Family Drama
1854 - 1891
Inner Hebrides and Canada

On a lonely Scottish Isle, a widow lights a lamp to aid sailors every night until Thomas Stephenson (accompanied by his sickly son Robert Lewis Stephenson but known as Louis) arrives to survey the islands with a view to building lighthouses. The captain of the ship is Captain Otter and two of his men are Richard Williams and Tom Masters. Both are insular characters, not mixing well with the crew and as such become good friends. Then Richard commits suicide and Thomas, heartbroken at the loss, and failing to find a young woman who he believes knows something of Richard's suicide, deserts and, afraid of being captured, decides to emigrate to Canada. On the ship, he encounters Iain, a stowaway and eventually adopts him. Tom sets up a photography business when he settles and Iain meets (and marries) a young Indian girl called Spring Thaw. But it is her brother, Silent Owl, who arouses his passions.

In many ways, this is a remarkable book - it weaves lives and loves with deftness, uses some real characters and gives an insight into Tom's personality as he lives in fear of discovery and struggles with his sexuality whilst still holding out hope that he will meet the mysterious woman again. It is also a good study of the life of the native Indians.

I found two things to comment on: an overuse of metaphors – most of a naval nature – and the 'chance meetings' that lead to the truths and eventual explanations. Nevertheless, the feeling of the Hebrides is as strong as the Canadian scenes, while introducing both a young and older Stevenson is a lovely touch and I  can warmly recommend this book.

© Richard Tearle

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