We spent part of the morning in Hobart on Saturday, and then drove 30 minutes south to Kettering to meet the Bruny Island Ferry. Visitors are widely discouraged from attempting a day trip to Bruny Island (as opposed to a longer stay) but we were on a mission. Cape Bruny is the setting for The Lightkeeper’s Wife, a novel by Karen Viggers, and our South Australian friends were keen to view the Tasmanian tourist attraction in person.
Book Club Favourite: The Lightkeeper’s Wife
It’s strange to be writing about The Lightkeeper’s Wife when I haven’t actually read the book myself yet. Apparently the novel is popular in book club circles; hence this assignment to see the Cape Bruny Lighthouse first-hand.
The book’s author Karen Viggers grew up in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, and studied Veterinary Science at Melbourne University. She then gained a PhD in wildlife health at the Australian National University in Canberra, prompting a stint in the Antarctica… and there’s the Tasmanian connection. That experience was enough to inspire the writer, who went on to create characters and themes relevant to lives lived in harsh and remote conditions.
This information can be gleaned from Karen Viggers‘ own website, and book-club notes for The Lightkeeper’s Wife. While our SA friends were keen to visit Bruny Island after reading the book… I’m very keen to read the book after visiting Cape Bruny Lighthouse!
Cape Bruny Lighthouse
We’ve written about Cape Bruny Lighthouse before, and we regularly recommend a visit when suggesting things to do in Tasmania. The South Bruny National Park boasts a small museum managed by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife, as well as the main attraction at the tip of Labillardiere Peninsula. The information provides details of the working and living conditions of the lighthouse keepers and the convicts assigned to work by their side.
Originally, women weren’t permitted to accompany their husbands, but eventually the governing body recognised the benefits of having entire families relocate to the site. Not only did they improve the lifestyle of the lighthouse keepers, the wives were also adept at growing vegetables, raising animals and helping with essential duties.
There’s been several deaths at Cape Bruny and the sad tales are a stark reminder of the remote location and the associated dangers of living in isolation. One child died when she choked on a piece of raw turnip at the age of two.
The information boards at the museum referred to a fenced grave, found along the track down to the beach. I hesitantly peered towards the steep track to the beach, not sure if I was brave enough to investigate. As it turns out, the story itself was sad enough for me without witnessing the grave.
Medical emergencies aside, imagine the trek from Hobart to the southern tip of Bruny Island via a single track designed for transportation by horse. Throughout history, how did people cross the D’Entrecasteuax Channel in pre-ferry days? Maybe such mysteries will be revealed when I read The Lightkeeper’s Wife.
If you’ve already read The Lightkeeper’s Wife (or maybe you plan to now, just like me) you are welcome to leave a reply in the comment section below.
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