Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased from Audible
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.
This was quite the interesting novel and there were a whole lot of things about it that I enjoyed, however I had a couple quibbles with elements of it as well. Certainly right from the start, there is a gripping cover and blurb. All the covers that I have seen are excellent representations of events of this novel, but I like this one with just a silhouette of the lighthouse; it reminds us of the desolation that is a very big part of the novel as well as the obvious storyline that revolves around the lighthouse.
The novel is broken roughly into three sections: that time spent on Janus, the events that unfold when they return to the mainland, and then about 20 or so years later. For me, it was the first third that held my interest which then slowly slipped away the further on I went. I loved the events on Janus Rock because it was very different that many other settings in novels because they are alone with only the occasional boat arrival bringing supplies. It is a little bit of a psychological drama of how different people process events when outside the boundaries of society. The line of right and wrong is a little less clear and I felt so much for these characters during this point in the story. I loved learning about the care and maintenance of the light and how seriously Tom takes his responsibilities to it. After Tom, Isabel, and Lucy return to the mainland where everything that was kept secret comes to the fore – this should have been the time where the drama ramps up, and I just didn’t feel that – it actually felt like a little bit of a slide backward. I felt the emotion for sure, but I just wasn’t super convinced and honestly didn’t care what would happen. Then once we move to the 20 years later, it was a major let down.
I have said this before with other novels set in and around Australia – I want more. I loved seeing the connection to WWI and how it even affected areas located physically far from the fighting. The mental impact of the war that Tom brought home with him certainly played into the decisions he made regarding Lucy and his family. It was a fascinating element to explore. We also deal with the psychological issues that Isabel experiences in living on a desolate island and the loss of several children. There is a lot of psychological experiences going on here that I found interesting.
This is a book that I had mixed feelings about, and certainly about the outcome of the fate of Lucy. Ultimately it came full circle and should have been somewhat satisfying, at least as much as it could be given their circumstances, but I didn’t like it.
The audio production here was fantastic, even given my quibbles with the story. The narrator, Noah Taylor, carried off a few different accents throughout the novel – of particular note was his German accent. He even sang a song – in German! I was impressed with the singing in general, but in another language it provided an even greater authenticity to the story. The pace of narration was perfect – at times it was calm and soothing and at others it spun up as certain characters felt frantic or the time was chaotic. The narration here helped make the story more enjoyable even when I wasn’t as into the story being told.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Light Between Oceans is the debut novel of M.L. Stedman
I think that this book would be a fabulous for discussion in a book club – there are so many elements that are ripe for various perspectives and opinions. So, if you have a book club, here are some resources you might want to check out.