A poignant, funny and engrossing exploration of family life centred around a cataclysmic event and its aftermath, from the author of Night Waking and Signs for Lost Children. Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man, and he is happy. But one day he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that for no apparent reason, 15-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.
Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently-absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton in the garden of their house.
Ally is intelligent, studious and engaged in an eternal battle to gain her mother’s approval and affection. Her mother is a religious zealot, keener on feeding the poor and saving prostitutes than on embracing the challenges of motherhood. Even when Ally is accepted as one of the first female students to read medicine in London, it still doesn’t seem good enough. The first in a two-book sequence, Bodies of Light is a poignant tale of a psychologically tumultuous 19th-century upbringing set in the world of Pre-Raphaelitism.
Only weeks into their marriage, a young couple embark on a six-month period of separation. Tom Cavendish goes to Japan to build lighthouses, and his wife, Ally, a doctor, begins her work at the Truro asylum. As the couple navigate their separate professional trials, the foundations of their marriage begin to slip. An exquisite novel of the 1880s told in alternating parts: two maps of absence - two distinct but conjoined portraits of loneliness and determination.