The beautiful and fickle Isles of Scilly, 45km off the coast of Cornwall, are a magnet for the troubled and solitary. Cari, a young teacher and wife, applies for a temporary teaching job on the sparsely populated island of St Mary's, a place she remembers visiting on holiday as a child. While Cari delights in the wide-open spaces and wild coastline, her academic husband, "a thin, towny type', stays inside, immersed in his PhD research. The gaps in their relationship widen, as Cari feels more and more lonely and unsupported in her marriage.
Anna is a 56-year-old trying to come to terms with a tragedy that occurred on the island years before. She rents a croft and sets up her easel to paint in watercolours. She is a worry to her daughter on the mainland who cannot understand her mother's hermetic island life.
Hugh, a latter-day farmer, lives on a neighbouring island, St Martin's, alone and isolated. He is bitter about his ex-wife and yearns to spend more time with his son.
The reader is gradually drawn into the interior landscape of these three ordinary people who each, for different reasons, harbours feelings of abandonment and disenchantment. Their lives intersect in unlikely and surprising ways.
Marion Molteno, who won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize a few years ago for her very popular If You Can Walk, You Can Dance, has written an intense, deeply personal novel. She shows great compassion for and understanding of her characters, allowing the reader to care for them as much as she does. She writes vividly about the islands, the beaches and the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean, the stone cottages and the hardy, wind-whacked plants. Somewhere More Simple is a muted, reflective meditation on the need for resolution.
*Longstone Books, $27.99