It is 1939. An ocean liner is embarking on a five week passage to Australia.
War will soon be declared but, for now, many nationalities, and different social classes, will all live together on the ship, cultivating relationships that are unlikely to have occurred in normal life.
Lily Shepherd is a young woman leaving behind a loving family for a better future, and an adventure. Little by little, we learn more about the disappointment, tragedy and scandal which led to her making this trip. And through her we come to know others on the journey.
There are Lily's cabin companions, the Jewish lady she befriends, the educated brother and sister, the glamorous married couple. We meet them at the meal times and parties, during the turbulent seas and the sultry nights, through the everyday tasks of living at sea and as they go sightseeing for short trips on land in Italy, Egypt and Ceylon.
All are fleeing scandal and tragedy but ultimately can they ever escape their past?
The book is beautifully written. I was completely captivated by Lily and all that happens to her. The glamour of the cruise and the exotic foreign travel was vivid and appealing, particularly when reading in a grey, cold and wet winter.
It was a slow-burn of a book, though. The characters and their secrets were revealed little by little, with everything coming to a head just as they all reach their destination. This was convincing - though the outcome was shocking - but I did find myself puzzling about halfway through as to the sort of book I was reading - was it romance, thriller, crime, mystery?
But I couldn't put it down, and I felt bereft that the cruise, and the book, was over. I will definitely seek out other books by this writer, who is known for her modern day crime as Tammy Cohen.