The Light on Farallon Island Review

The Light on Farallon Island by Jen Wheeler is the author’s debut historical fiction novel set on a tiny island thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. Taking place around the mid 1800s, we follow Lucy Riley on her journey to the island in answer to a teaching post for the few children there. We slowly realize that something is wrong and that there’s more than meets the eyes as to why Lucy has taken on the position on such a remote piece of island. The novel is a bit claustrophobic, so readers should take notice of that. The entire novel revolves mainly around Lucy and her few companions on the lonely island, traveling from house to house. Because the Farallon Islands is an actual destination, I’d suggest all readers to search for images of
the island prior to starting this novel to get a sense of just how small the island really is.

“Grief comes and goes, but it never abandons you.”

Mrs. Clifford

The story does have a mysterious vibe that sets the mood, but I think the novel would have benefitted if it was a bit shorter. Lucy’s constant fear and twitch at the slightest movement of a shadow, imagined or otherwise, can get quite repetitive later on. Lucy is a flawed character and that’s that best part about this novel. She tries at times to be modern and independent, but when the going gets tough, she can sometimes revert to a clamshell. This highlights the need for love and companionship as the cure for many people who have suffered from traumatic events during childhood.

Yet if sanity was a matter of resisting the impossible, would fully embracing madness effect true faith?

Amelia Osbourne

All in all, The Light on Farallon Island was a mediocre read at best. As a person who prefers solicitude, going as far as to live on a remote island with but a few for companionship is too drastic, but I can definitely see the allure it brings for Lucy or anyone else that has a past that is worth running away from. As it stands, I’d like to think the author could have spent a bit more time on the few other characters. During my reading, only Lucy, Will and Mr. Salter stood out. The rest, including the children and their mothers and fathers, was just a blur. Congratulations to the author on her debut novel.


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