Where Light Meets Water

An evocative novel of love and art, and one man’s journey to find his place in the world. Where Light Meets Water is a moving debut traversing nineteenth-century London, Melbourne and New Zealand’s rugged South Island.

Shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Awards 2024

London, 1847: On shore leave while his ship is being repaired, sailor Thomas Rutherford is restless, waiting to return to sea. At twenty-eight years old, Tom knows nothing but life on tall ships and is determined to captain his own.

But Tom has a second passion: painting. And so he passes time with his paintbox and sketchbook… until he is struck by the discovery of a delicate glove laced with the unmistakable scent of turpentine. The owner is Catherine Ogilvie – captivating, headstrong and a talented artist in her own right. Intrigued by this singular woman, Tom finds himself swept into Catherine’s privileged yet stifling world.

As Tom and Catherine grow closer, Tom’s eyes are opened to a new way of life. But his ambitions remain and, when the sea calls to Tom, he must face an impossible choice.

In her stunning debut, Susan Paterson explores the power of art to transform a life and to connect us to others. Where Light Meets Water is a multi-stranded novel of love – of a man and a woman, of a sailor and the sea, and of an artist and his gift.

Find out more, including the inspirational story behind the novel and some recommended historical fiction reads, on Simon & Schuster’s book page.


‘Visually sumptuous, beautifully written and often deeply moving, the novel combines psychological complexity and the sweep of history to create an admirably ambitious début.’

– Susan Midalia, ABR issue 453, May 2023

‘This glittering debut announces Paterson as a talent to watch.’

The Weekend Australian

‘Moving, tender and beautifully written: this is a splendidly engaging tale of the inner lives of artists and the spoken and unspoken worlds of their complicated love.’

– Gail Jones, award-winning author of Five Bells and Salonika Burning

‘The swells and rhythms of the sea – and of the human heart – suffuse every page. Perfectly paced and sumptuously visual, Where Light Meets Water is a stunning debut.’

– Catherine Chidgey, award-winning author of Remote Sympathy and The Axeman’s Carnival

‘An extraordinary debut. Paterson has given art, and the sea, a new language, and reminds us that love and grief never live alone.’

– Kristina Olsson, acclaimed author of Shell and Boy, Lost

‘Where Light Meets Water is a story about love – of the sea, of art, and of a woman. It is a story about equals at a time when equality was impossible, and Susan Paterson has told it with great compassion and insight. Susan Paterson wields her pen like an artist’s brush and the result is beautiful and evocative.’

– Pip Williams, bestselling author of The Dictionary of Lost Words

‘A love story wrapped in a novel about painting and the sea, which, just like a painting, builds layer upon layer to create a satisfying whole. A stunning debut novel that is both lyrical and full of beauty. The shifting setting moves effortlessly around the Victorian globe, from Scotland to London, to Australia and ultimately to the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. The combination of strong characters and the passions that both bind and separate them is masterfully done.’

– NZ Booklovers Awards 2024, judges comments

‘This book is utterly magnificent. Susan Paterson is a wonder.’

– Eliza Henry-Jones, acclaimed author of Salt and Skin

‘Where Light Meets Water is a shimmering, beautiful and deftly told story. Charting the course of one man’s life, it delicately explores the intersections between art, passion, love and duty. Insightful and resonant; full of evocative imagery – I enjoyed this book so much. Where Light Meets Water is a thought-provoking novel and a compelling tale that stayed with me long after I read the final page.’

– Michelle Scott Tucker, acclaimed author of Elizabeth Macarthur

‘Susan Paterson’s Where Light Meets Water is a lyrical and gripping historical fiction novel that traverses nineteenth-century Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and the oceans that join and separate them. Paterson’s always insightful writing explores divisions of privilege and class, tensions between freedom and duty, through the eyes of an artist and sailor’s twin passions for paintbrush and sea. The author’s luminous prose masterfully evokes the smells, tastes and textures of Victorian landscapes, parlours and stormy ship decks and is sure to delight and dazzle readers … Seductive language and provocative story engage universal themes of exile and sacrifice, and love and loss, through a self-taught artist’s quest for acceptance, his quest to find his true place in the world and the meaning of his brilliant paintings.’

– Melissa Ashley, bestselling author of The Birdman’s Wife

Interview with Katy at The Leaf Bookshop, Melbourne (24 May 2023)

Review of Where Light Meets Water on Radio New Zealand (16 June 2023)

Podcast discussion with Cheryl Akle (26 June 2023)