The Exile of Sara Stevenson: A Historical Novel
Ballantine, 2010 (2010)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
n 1814, Sara Stevenson, daughter of renowned Scottish lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson falls in love with a common sailor, Thomas Crichton. They make plans to elope. But Thomas does not show up at their arranged meeting place. When her parents learn of Sara's pregnancy, they exile her to the remote lighthouse at Cape Wrath (where '
Unholy things dwell
'). Accompanying Sara is her self-righteous lady's companion Kate and Kate's husband Robbie MacKinnon, who will work as assistant to reclusive light-keep William Campbell.
ara learns that she and Kate are expected to help with cooking and cleaning, though Sara has no experience with either and her companion is not much better. Proud, strong-willed and impulsive, Sara is soon in conflict with William Campbell (who seems to have his own secrets), and has not got on well with Kate ever since the latter betrayed her to her parents. And, though she cannot understand why Thomas left her waiting for him, she still longs desperately for her lost lover. Gradually Sara befriends local crofters (who supplement their income by smuggling) and comes to terms with her new situation.
lashbacks to the past show that Sara bought Thomas a gift, a very fine and unusual chronometer, and engraved a message for him on the back. When a package arrives mysteriously for Sara from Oxford antiquarian Alexander Seawell, she's astonished to find Thomas's watch inside. Seawell informs her that he obtained it from a soldier named James Crichton, who saved Seawell's life before dying on a French battlefield. So begins an odd correspondence between Sara and Alexander Seawell, that raises many questions but provides few answers.
s Sara's pregnancy develops, so does her relationship with William Campbell, as well as the mystery of the circumstances surrounding the timepiece's journey from Thomas to Sara. Though rather shallow in characterization,
The Exile of Sara Stevenson
is an intriguing read, telling a tale of a great romance that survives death - and time.
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