Robyn Mundy

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Robyn Mundy

Sixteen-year-old Stephanie West has been dragged from Sydney to remote Maatsuyker Island off the coast of Tasmania by her parents, hoping to recapture a childhood idyll and come to terms with their grief over the death of Steph’s twin brother. With no television, no heating and no one else on the island, the months ahead look to be filled with ghosts of the past.

Steph’s saviour is Tom Forrest, a 19-year-old deckhand aboard a crayfishing boat. When the weather allows, Tom visits the island, and he and Steph soon form an attraction. But Tom must conceal at all costs the illegal fishing he takes part in, orchestrated by his tyrannical brother. And he dare not dwell on his fear of the sea or his deep-worn premonition that the ocean will one day take him.

Wildlight is an exquisite exploration of the wayward journey of adolescence, and how the intense experience of a place can change the course of even the most well-planned life.


Robyn Mundy’s novel Wildlight had me wishing to visit Maatsuyker Island (Maat) off the southern coast of Tasmania, despite its cold, wild, wet and windy nature. Sixteen-year-old Stephenie West is about to relocate there with her parents, as they become caretakers of the island. It’s a break from Sydney where everything is a reminder of Steph’s twin brother whose death they are still grieving.

Steph, however, is none too pleased with being pulled from Sydney to remote and isolated Maat. Aside from missing her friends and having only her parents for company, she is completing her final semester of high school. Luckily, the island is home to a beautiful old lighthouse, with glass and prisms and textures that create the perfect place of solitude that Steph needs as a base for her artwork and study.

It’s from the lighthouse that she first spots the boat that will bring her nineteen-year-old Tom Forrest. Tom is a lifeline for Steph – someone to talk to aside from her parents, and he knows the island and the ocean that surrounds it. Tom is a reluctant deckhand on his brother’s boat. Much of the crayfishing they do is illegal, but his brother doesn’t mind which leaves Tom torn between guilt and duty, and needing to conceal things from Steph.

Mundy’s crisp prose so vividly places you on the island that I was regularly reaching for a blanket while reading Wildlight. I felt the storms racing in, and could smell the ocean, the fresh tea tree and the oily mutton-birds descend. I absolutely loved this book. When I wasn’t reading I wanted to be, but I wasn’t inclined to race through either as the experience of being there with Steph was so strong that the time I spent with her didn’t need to be rushed but gently experienced.

Suzanne Steinbruckner works as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda.

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