Journey to the wilds of California’s Big Sur region, where secrets are hidden in the dense fog at The Edge of the Earth, the newest book by New York Times bestselling author Schwarz. The stars of this book are the setting and its inhabitants: the isolated Point Lucia Lighthouse, where young, naive socialite Gertrude “Trudy” Swann and her new husband Oskar run away to work and study in 1898. The Crawley family, austere Henry and formidable Mrs. Crawley, and her brother, Archie Johnston, jointly keep up the lighthouse. The Crawley children, Mary, Edward, Nicholas and Jane (who opens and closes the story), are constantly underfoot, and their tales of a “mermaid” quickly reinforce the need for Trudy to take up the role as the lighthouse’s sole teacher. Trudy’s life changes irrevocably when she discovers the secrets of the light station in the caverns below.
The atmospheric Big Sur is a departure from the Midwestern locales of Drowning Ruth andSo Long at the Fair and far more isolated than Los Angeles is in All is Vanity. The oppressive fog that envelops the lighthouse’s rocky outcropping obscures the wilderness beyond, creating an atmosphere that feels as cold, isolating and as removed from civilization as young Trudy comes to experience firsthand. Schwarz harnesses this setting, hides a few family secrets, and slowly unveils them with a steady amount of suspense, but the pacing could be quicker. The juxtaposition of innocence and corruption is telling and may be off-putting to readers who prefer lighter fare. Fans of Schwarz’s previous novels will quickly recognize her signature approach of delving into the human spirit as Trudy and Oskar take divergent paths to achieving the desires of their hearts.
This review first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Historical Novel Review. I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of a review.