Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Title: The Exile of Sara Stevenson
Author: Darci Hannah
ISBN: 9780345520548
Published by: Ballantine Books, 2010
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: C+
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program

First Line: Somebody once told me that every tower had a ghost, and every ghost had a story.

Nineteen-year-old Sara Stevenson is the daughter of famed lighthouse builder, Robert Stevenson. In many ways, she's the typical spoiled young woman, used to a life of being pampered in the family home in Edinburgh. She knows what she wants, and she usually wants it yesterday. Unfortunately her latest heart's desire has gotten her in trouble.

Sara has fallen in love with handsome young seaman Thomas Crichton. Crichton is missing, and she's pregnant. Her normally indulgent parents are not amused. Sara is exiled to the very remote lighthouse at Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly corner of the British mainland. She is accompanied by her maid (who betrayed her) and her maid's husband. Once at the lighthouse, Sara finds the keeper, William Campbell, to have more than his fair share of quirks and strange behavior.

As time passes, Sara meets and makes friends with some of the locals, learns to do a bit of cooking and cleaning, and begins to appreciate the rugged land on which she lives. Although Crichton never appears, she still loves him and won't hear a word against him, even though she eventually begins to have feelings for someone else. As the days pass, she corresponds with a rather strange antiquarian in Oxford, and when she learns about her parents' plans for her baby, she writes to ask him for help. She learns that he has quite an obstacle to surmount before he can arrive on Cape Wrath.

The major reason why I picked up this book is because of the title. A few years ago, I read an excellent book, The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst, which is ostensibly about Sara's father. I was a bit uneasy about an author giving a fictional daughter to a real person, especially when the character based upon the real person behaves very differently from historical record. Once I started reading, it was simple for me to keep in mind that this, after all, was fiction.

Hannah proved to be very skilled in bringing the remote setting of Cape Wrath to life, and the character of Sara lived and breathed. During the times she behaved like a spoiled young miss, I just wanted to slap her. I was wheeling right along enjoying the setting, the story and the characters when the ending came along and threw a spanner in the works. You may or may not have noticed the "paranormal" tag I put on this review. The ending of the book involves a love that transcends time as well as time travel.

I love well-done time travel. It's one of my favorite genres. However, as it is handled in this book, it felt clunky and cumbersome, and I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to buy into it. The love of Crichton and Sara also didn't qualify in my mind as a love that transcends time because we weren't allowed to see enough of Crichton before his disappearance.

Minus the paranormal elements and the romance, I really enjoyed this novel. Something tells me that, although I didn't care for the way those two elements were handled, many others will. That doesn't bother me. Hannah shows a great deal of promise, and I will definitely look for more of her writing.


  1. I don´t think I would buy the ending either, but then I very rarely read paranormal books. I read a crime novel with a ghost last year, but as the ghost wasn´t part of the solution to the crime, I loved the story anyway, but when I read a review like this one, I always wish someome would take this great material and make it into a wonderful crime story :D

  2. Hummm. I don't mind paranormal (in fact, I usually like it), but I dont' think this one be for me.

  3. Denis has influenced your vocabulary. Who in Illinois would say, ". . . threw a spanner in the works?" I love it - I talk a mixture of Midwest and Maine myself because of Dave. :D

  4. I couldnt' agree more on the ending. Didn't really warm up to the MC's either.

  5. Doesn't sound like this one is for me either. Sorry you didn't like it as much as you had hoped.

  6. Dorte-- With a little reworking, this could make a very good crime story!

    Beth-- As long as it's done well, I like it. This was a bit clunky.

    Barbara-- Okay. You caught me. I speak a unique blend of Lancashire Southern Hick! LOL

    Misfit-- I think I warmed up to the secondary characters more than the main ones. To say I wanted to slap Sara doesn't necessarily mean that I warmed up to her. As a spoiled miss, she shone.

    Kris-- Can't win 'em all, and as I read, I was reminded of the Highlands as I've seen them, so that was a good thing.

  7. I think it would be hard for me to read this book if I knew the lighthouse designer never had a daughter and that he acted very differently from the character in this book. I often think that this inability really impedes my enjoyment of books that I would like otherwise. Glad that you were able to get past that here and that you were able to deal with the other negative aspects.

  8. Aarti-- Sometimes it's not very easy at all for me, so I know what you're talking about!


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