Late 1904, Tasmania. Christy announces to her family that she is planning a visit to her Scottish homeland on the Isle of Skye. They try to dissuade her, saying that the distance is too great at her age, but she is adamant she must return, face her fears, and find closure. A compromise is reached that her daughter Anne and granddaughter Kathryn will accompany her, even though Anne is a bitter, angry woman after discovering something that has eroded her trust in her mother.
While the women are away, Christy’s sons Hamish and James are served with a legal claim that threatens to destroy everything they own and, in an emergency meeting, they agree that Anne’s husband Harold will try to unearth the Australian secrets from Christy’s past that may help their defence.
The flashbacks are smoothly incorporated into the narrative, with the best and most moving part where Christy relates all that she and her family endured during the Highland Clearances. The retelling of her later life in Australia is rather compacted in order to reach the tidy conclusion.
This relationships-and-secrets novel will find favour with a readership not bothered by historical errors, of which there too many to list. Examples include mid-19th-century colonial immigrants stamped as “citizens of Australia” long before that nation existed, and luxury liners on impossible diversions from the established shipping lanes of 1905. But most glaring of all are the technological slip-ups in communications which are vital components of the plot. There is mention of “two-way radios” long before they had been invented, plus wireless telegraph messages to and from a ship in the Indian Ocean many years before repeater stations had been erected in the Southern Hemisphere. If only greater care had been taken with such details, this might have qualified for recommendation.