360 of 370 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2012
The Light Between Oceans is a post WW1 Australian set novel about Tom Sherbourne who having been demobbed gets a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. Soon after he marries and he and his wife come to love their isolated idyll. Their paradise becomes tainted by their inability to have children and following her third miscarriage Isabel is cracking under the strain of the grief, when one night a boat is shipwrecked on their shores..... it contains a dead man and a newborn baby. Believing God has answered their prayers Isabel persuades Tom not to report the wreck and they pass the child off as their own.
But though he loves the child, the actions wrack Tom with guilt for years to come.....
This novel is a stunning debut on the part of M.L Steadman and covers such a range of emotions and reactions. Guilt, grief, sacrifice, morality, love, marriage, parenthood, loss, time, change, duty, truth. Above all it is achingly human, and provokes the same dilemma in its reader as in its protagonist.
I am quite a cynic these days, and on top of that a well read one, so it isn't that often these days that I find a novel with the capacity to move me to tears, but this novel did. Its location is atmospheric and beautifully drawn, the sea and the windswept isolation of the island; even with the unusual parameters of the storyline the novel feels gutwrenchingly real, of a place and time and characters who existed as opposed to an entirely fictitious prospect.
Enormously moving and brilliantly told. I won't forget this book in a hurry nor the emotions that rose within me as I read it. A quality piece of writing and a quality novel, I hugely recommend you purchase this book. 10/10
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2012
I bought this book because it had good write-ups and I liked the first couple of pages I sampled. the beginning is a really good example of how to start a book and hook the reader in. The descriptions of the remote island off the coast of Australia, the sea and the lighthouse were to die for - it really tapped into that romantic childhood fantasy about living on a lighthouse and being a lighthouse keeper (yes, I know I'm a girl!!!)
But it was the reading on that I found difficult. I found it quite an upsetting book to read and found myself skipping chunks - big chunks - because I needed to know what happened but I couldn't bear to read about it. There are some books that just tap into deep emotions and they're not always ones you want to experience. I'm not going to say more because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't yet read it.
Briefly - Tom, a returning hero from World War One, becomes a lighthouse keeper and meets his wife Isobel, a small town girl, and takes her out to Janus Island where things don't exactly go to plan. Then, one day, a boat washes up onshore containing a dead man and a live baby..... The moral and ethical decisions that the couple make have repercussions no one anticipates.
The novel is beautifully written, but is also somewhat uneven, as you'd expect from a first book, and I found some of the plot elements stretched my credibility at times. But it's a very clever and impressive piece of writing - that's why I gave it four stars rather than three, though my instinct was to award three and three-quarters!
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2012
I ordered this book based on the reviews on Amazon and wasn't disappointed. The plot is fascinating; the dilemma when the boat with a baby and a dead man is found. The reader knows instinctively what will happen but we don't have a clue what will be the outcome of the decision. This is a love story, a mystery and is just so poignant throughout. the story stays with you for some time after you've read it. It is beautifully written and a good piece of literature. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2012
Wonderful, evocative writing - particularly when describing places - truly fantastic. The weak point for me was that the characterisation, while good, in places just did not ring true. I don't want to give any plot details away because it will spoil the story, but the central decision (the disposal of a body and the 'adoption' of the baby) just did not quite chime fully with the development of the two main characters. Similarly during the investigation of the 'crime', I just didn't quite buy either characters' behaviour completely. That's not to say that you can't (as a reader) understand why they made the choices they did, you can, but it just seemed slightly 'out', moreso the second circumstance rather than the first. What the writer seemed to have been driving towards was an apparently insoluble problem in order to increase the satisfaction of the eventual resolution - and the resolution was extremely satisfying - but I found it just a bit incredible in places - just enough to make me feel slightly irritated with all the characters (but not enough to put me off!)
But a great read - completely engrossing and the unravelling towards the end was, while not totally surprising, also not totally predictable. A horrible situation resolved completely appropriately - in a way, I wish there had been one more page about this resolution, because it was so entirely appropriate.
I'm sorry if this sounds really cryptic, but too much plot will really spoil it. I didn't read any reviews before I bought it and I'm really glad I didn't.
117 of 128 people found the following review helpful
'He's in a place where there's just wind and waves and light, and the intricate machinery that keeps the flame burning and the lantern turning. Always turning, always looking over its shoulder.'
Tom Sherbourne is haunted by traumatic memories of his horrific experiences in World War I. He is one of the men who have returned to Australia, as so many did not. He is not physically scarred, 'but he's scarred all the same, having to live in the same skin as the man who did the things that needed to be done back then.' Now, looking to his future, he becomes a lighthouse keeper. He takes a position on remote Janus Rock, off the coast of South-Western Australia, with Point Partageuse being the nearest community on the mainland. Partageuse is a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where, after the war, 'gradually, once again lives wove together into a practical sort of fabric..', where '..Janus Rock, linked only by the store boat four times a year, dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica.'
He meets local girl Isabel Graysmark whilst he is on the mainland, they correspond with each other when Tom returns to the lighthouse, and they fall in love and marry. For Isabel, the war has instilled a sense of urgency into life: 'If the war had taught her anything, it was to take nothing for granted...life could snatch away the things you treasured, and there was no getting them back.' Moving forward in time to the mid 1920s, we meet them living out on Janus Rock together, with a sadness hanging between them that they have no children, Isabel having suffered miscarriages. When a boat is washed up on the rock, they make a decision that day which will change the rest of their lives, as the couple is torn between love and desperate need, and the truth and reality of their situation.
There are some beautiful descriptions of the places, which made me want to visit the fictional Partageuse. Equally, the remote location of the lighthouse, the effects of the weather, the detail of the daily duties Tom carries out, is all conveyed well, and very convincingly, so that the reader can imagine the routine of their days, sense the isolation of the lighthouse keeper and his wife, and feel the remoteness of life on Janus Rock. The effects of the War on the community in Partageuse are movingly described, reminding us of the involvement of Australia in that conflict.
This is stunning prose and heart-wrenching storytelling for a debut writer. Through the story, the author delivers many truths about life. She highlights the best and worst sides of humans, the amount of courage, the strength of love, the severity of intense pain, the cruelty inflicted by a decision made out of Isabel's desperate longing, the remorse felt. A lovely read, it is also heartbreaking as the story unfolds and the repercussions play out. I was willing all the characters to the 'best' outcome for all of them, somehow. This story really touched me, I felt quite deeply affected by it, and I cried at the end. I loved this book. It's a great debut novel.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2012
On the face of it this story is classic enough: lone man marries a beautiful woman he feels unworthy of, together they encounter extreme hardships while unsuccessfully tries to start a family. One day providence - or is it something else? - sends them the gift of a beautiful baby girl, washed ashore in a life raft, and their lives take on a whole new meaning. This is where many novels would have left them, but THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS takes the story to its bitter end: through lies and betrayal, condemnation, heart-break and, in the end, forgiveness and in certain ways, redemption.
It's incredibly readable - I read this over the course of two days and it stayed with me for long afterwards, and though it is plotted in a rather commercial way designed to pull at your heart strings, the emotion in the novel rang true enough to bring me to tears. Yes, I cried! That never happens. Though I am not a parent, nor have ever felt the intense longing for a child Isabel feels, I did empathise fully with Isabel and Tom in their decisions and later on, with the reactions of Lucy/Grace and her biological family.
I read a lot of books, but this did stand out of the crowd so I really can recommend it for anyone who's in search for lighter reading with an emotional plot line and a big heart.
This will surely be a huge bestseller in paperback. What a fantastic debut.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2012
Robustly old-fashioned storytelling, big-hearted and self-assured. When Tom and Izzy Sherbourne recover a marooned boat on the remote Australian coastline in 1926, they are astonished to find a baby within. They swiftly adopt the child as their own, but its history is far more tangled than they could have imagined, and soon the Sherbournes' world collides with that of 'their' baby's family.
I would dock it points for its unattractive jacket, but otherwise The Light Between Oceans is a triumph - really spellbinding fiction. The moral dilemmas are accessible and almost unbearably poignant, the period detail is spot-on, and the Sherbournes themselves make for heartbreaking heroes. It's a swift read, too, brimming with suspense and suffused with longing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2013
"The Light Between Oceans" debut novel by Margot L. Stedman is the one of the most beautiful, and in same time also one of the most saddest, novel ever read. Its heartache is the result of beautiful portrait of several lives tragically ruined only because of love.
The novel is set in the 1920s in the Western Australia coast, in one small mainland port and an island with a lighthouse. The novel in many ways speaks about duality, starting with the small island's name with a lighthouse, Janus, where the main part of story would unfold. Named by Roman god with two faces of beginnings and endings, this island is situated in a place where two oceans touch themselves.
When a boat will drift on Janus, it would bring a dead man and a barely alive two-month old crying baby who will be found by lighthouse keeper Tom and his wife, Isabel, the only island residents. For some time they desperately want to have their own children but Isabel has miscarried several times, the last time several weeks ago. Choosing between notifying the authorities that will take away a child or accepting a child that is not theirs, but it seems like a righteous gift, they're not aware of how many lives, including their own will their decision about to change. A reader will learn about Tom's earlier days in WWI, his solace seeking after all terrors he witnessed and guilt he feels because he is alive and so many innocent people gave their lives. He loves Isabel fully and deeply, he would have made everything for her even if that means the violation of all legal and emotional rules. The girl would be named Lucy and she will become the light of their lives both allegorically and literally. But luck will not last forever, and when some long-kept secrets been discovered, the plot would take a few twists and turns before being resolved in a deeply poignant way...
"The Light Between Oceans" is a remembering tale with a difficult to be answered ethical and emotional questions. Just as in life, it's almost impossible to draw a line between good and bad, right and wrong, morality and immorality, that this novel clearly shows inviting reader to frequently contemplate about it.
The story is unfolding more through narrative than the characters, because except for the Tom, all characters are pretty simple people who live their lives by the sea, connected to it. The author, seems intentionally, showed them as undemanding people that don't expect a lot from life. Even the tragedy of the First World War, that left a large scar because of many young Australian people killed, must be forget because life must go on.
The novel wonderfully described a small island with a lighthouse, and a common theme of solitary and one of the worst jobs imaginable, the one of lighthouse keeper, is shown completely different. The representation of island is full of life, embraced by the waves, wind and sky that make it pleasant and beautiful place to live. At least until a boat coming didn't start to slowly change everything...
A way in which the author showed the depth of emotion, devotion to the family and the love for a child is the best, but also the most moving part of the novel. The validation given to characters disparate views, although sometime determined by own interest, convincingly raises question of moral ambiguity justification.
The Light Between Oceans" is a remarkable novel although be prepared for the sadness due to life tragedy so beautifully pictured.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Forgive me for r.r.r. raving about this but The Light Between Oceans is such a special story. Exquisite in fact, instantly catching you up into a time and place that feels so real, a recreation of the days of the highest standards; lingering deep damage done by WW I; testing by a dilemma twisty as `two snakes joined together', with one being right and one wrong, we are told. During the days before instant communication, spanning dates from 1918 to 1950 and set in Australia. It could be anywhere else though, Cornwall, Brittany or Scotland, the remoteness of the place renders it without nationality.
Tom Sherbourne is an honourable man, decorated with the MC and Bar. He now has the Grade One hardship rated position as a lighthouse keeper and is settled happily managing the lonely Janus Island light, for long stretches; up to three years on end, taking his responsibilities more seriously than you can imagine. It suits him so well. The job itself couldn't be more important. "It's like seeing into the future, said Isabel. You can reach ahead in time to save the ship before it knows it needs help."
Married and joined by the sparkling, bright and lovely Izzie, their solitary days take on a certain magical containment. They are apart from the everyday world in a way that cannot be envisaged now. This plays out in a way that cannot be foretold, and keeps the reader on edge, constantly wondering how it can evolve. Shocks and surprises ripple out of the pages, it is just so exciting and worrying. A truly worthwhile read that has an ending that totally gathers the tale up and shakes it out.
76 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Thiis is Stedman's debut novel and I honestly thought initially I was reading an established author, as the writing is well crafted, characters well drawn, plot interesting and the book draws you in front the start. We are transported to Australia, to Janus Rock where the Janus lighthouse stands, between the two oceans (hence the title). The lighthouse represents the last sight of Australia that Tom Sherbourne, one of the central characters, saw as he left to fight in World War 1. Tom survived the war physically unscathed by mentally traumatised. In the 1920s Tom is now lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock.
On his first visit to the lighthouse, he stops at the nearest port town and meets Isabel Graysmark. Their courtship is a protracted affair, with no communication other than letters every three months. The isolation of their love is very strong and depicted very well by the author. It was clear that Isabel and Tom were meant to be together and that they could fight anything that was brought against them. However, tragedy strikes them more than once, but despite everything the lighthouse and the rock it stands on brings them light, hope and a future. Isabel and Tom are both oceans that are drawn together by a light and driven apart by one. The reader is in on a secret with Isabel and Tom which is gradually revealed to others in the novel. As someone who had difficulty conceiving a child and experienced a traumatic labour, I could really empathise with Isabel's plight but could also understand the conflict that Tom feels and sympathise with the baby's biological family. Some parts had me unshamedly reaching for the tissues because these characters really get under your skin. The secret creates so many questions - Is right to carry on even when it is wrong? Can the guilt of the past be healed by the actions of the future? Only by reading the book will you know and as you do, you question what you would do in that situation. This book raises so many questions, making it a richer, thought provoking text.
Two areas of the book which I would like to mention are the passages dealing with the War, dealt with tenderly but still showing the brutality and futility of war. Many books concentrate solely on the British/American involvement and other nationalities and countries are invariable overlooked, so it was good to see a book focus on the war from an Australian perspective. The other aspect which before reading I wouldn't have been interested in is the routine and role of a lightkeeper. This is covered quite fully, the author having done her research even to the scientific aspect of the light itself made easy for all non science readers like myself. I was ultimately fascinated about such a place and the role of the keeper, and how they endured the isolation they experienced. This is a début novel from an author that I feel has much more to give and look forward to reading what comes next.