Ember Island features the dual stories of novelist Nina Jones in 2012 and governess Tilly Kirkland in 1891. In their respective times, both are newcomers to Ember Island. Nina comes to the island to deal with the property that was abandoned by her renters and maybe finally write her overdue novel. She and her boyfriend have broken up and a reporter is hounding her, so Ember Island is a welcome escape. I wish there’d been more of Nina in this novel, but the focus is on Tilly and her young charge Nell who is an ancestor of Nina’s. Like Nina, Tilly comes to Ember Island to escape her past which includes a loveless marriage. Tilly makes plenty of mistakes on the island, but Nell loves her all the same. (Nell actually deserves a book of her own. She immediately hooked me with her statement about a previous teacher’s lack of knowledge as evidenced by her spelling of definitely with an “a.”) Too much cannot be said about Tilly without being a spoiler, but I appreciated the difficulties she experienced as a woman of that time and how she always tried to make the best of her situation. The characterizations, especially the precocious Nell, are marvelous and the parallels between Nina and Tilly are nicely done.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.