The Blurb (from Goodreads):
Alice is only nine years old in 1910 when she is sent to the feared Coast Hospital lazaret at Little Bay in Sydney, a veritable prison where more patients are admitted than will ever leave. She is told that she's visiting her mother, who disappeared one day when Alice was two. Once there, Alice learns her mother is suffering from leprosy and that she has the same disease.
As she grows up, the secluded refuge of the lazaret becomes Alice's entire world, her mother and the other patients and medical staff her only human contact. The patients have access to a private sandstone-edged beach, their own rowboat, a piano and a library of books, but Alice is tired of the smallness of her life and is thrilled by the thought of the outside world. It is only when Guy, a Yuwaalaraay man wounded in World War I, arrives at The Coast, that Alice begins to experience what she has yearned for, as they become friends and then something deeper.
Filled with vivid descriptions of the wild beauty of the sea cliffs and beaches surrounding the harsh isolation of the lazaret, and written in evocative prose, The Coast is meticulously researched historical fiction that holds a mirror to the present day. Heartbreaking and soul-lifting, it is a universal story of love, courage, sacrifice and resilience.
‘The Coast’ is a lazaret in Sydney where lepers were banished in the early 20th century to live out their lives in solitude before they died. It is a fascinating aspect of my home town’s history that I never knew, and Eleanor Limprecht brings it to life with great sensitivity. Her protagonist Alice is only nine when she is sent there, and she grows up surrounded by the knowledge that her condition causes only horror and disgust in those that learn of it. Her friendship with the gentle lazaret doctor and growing intimacy with Guy, a Yuwaalaraay man who was badly wounded in World War I, brings some comfort, but Alice knows that her happiness is all too precarious.