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
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!
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
on 5 January 2014
The first third of this book is captivating, stunning description, great characterisation, compelling story problem. And Stedman nailed her plot effectively, no holes in it at all but...
Then the writing seems to get worse but I think the thing that really pulled me away from the story was the constant chopping about into different characters heads. Even minor characters get their say and there was a loooong section in the middle that went on and on.
A few main characters were under developed, Hannah, Frank.
I don't know. It's an emotive issue which is why so many have responded the way they have but the writing and structure fell off a cliff really. I kept going to the end but no longer cared.
Stedman is a good writer though and I imagine her next book will be better.
on 21 May 2016
This was recommended to me by a fellow book blogger as a good choice for a book club read, so I picked it for my book club choice.
If you're the kind of person that sees everything in black and white then this novel will test you. The line on the front of the book “this is a story about right and wrong and how sometimes they look the same”, firstly ask yourself does it? Isn’t wrong always wrong? Can you ever justify blurring that line? And therein lies the moral and legal dilemma at the heart of this story.
Doing the wrong thing for the right reason…is this even acceptable? This book raises all these types of questions which did make it an excellent choice for a book group discussion although this didn’t entirely go as I expected it too. Some members of our group were categorically against Isabel and Tom's decision and very unforgiving whilst me and one other were a little more understanding and were prepared to bend the rules....
Ultimately the people I most felt sorry for was Isabel’s parents, Hannah and of course, Lucy-Grace. A different time with a distinct lack of support for any kind of mental health issue or child welfare services makes this book even more heart-breaking which brought tears to my eyes by the very end.
As someone who has a romanticised love for lighthouses I found the scenes and information about the lights really interesting and they were obviously very well researched.
Again, I got swept along by the story and totally missed the little hints that would inevitably lead to working out what was coming next...I never pick up on the darn clues!! ;)
Will you feel compassionate, empathetic or revel in their comeuppance? If you knew you could get away with it, would you try? Simply, yet beautifully written an overall a solid 4* read for me and I'll definitely be watching the movie later this year.
on 9 May 2014
Tom meets Isabel whilst on a temporary posting to Janus, in Western Australia and they have a whirlwind 1920's romance, quickly ending up living permanently on Janus, where they only return to the mainland very rarely. Living in isolation is something that obviously appeals greatly to Tom, who is trying to escape the horrors of World War I, and Isabel seemingly embraces the isolated beauty of Janus. I didn't quite understand why Isabel was so attracted to Tom, not that he isn't an intriguing character, but it didn't seem to really fit with her outgoing personality, especially living so far from everyone.
The arrival of the unknown baby suddenly pitches their morality into the ocean and they find themselves immediately in conflict - Isabel believes the baby was meant to find them, and Tom is eaten up by the guilt that the child is missing from another family. There are interesting moral debates here, and my opinion swung regularly back and forth between Tom and Isabel as they both presented compelling arguments as to why their decision was the right one.
There is a great deal of atmosphere in The Light Between Oceans - the isolation of Janus is obvious, but it's also the beauty that Stedman brings out through descriptions of the lighthouse and the island itself, coupled with how haunted Tom feels by his experiences in the war.
The Light Between Oceans is undoubtedly emotional - it's hard not to side with a particular character, but I actually found myself torn for both Isabel and Tom as they are forced to make decisions about how to move forward with their lives. The ending itself is a strange mixture of being too fast-paced and yet all the open plot lines are tied up satisfyingly.
The Light Between Oceans definitely poses a lot of moral questions, but although I enjoyed it, I didn't find it to be as heart-wrenching as I thought it may be - in parts it was quite emotional but there was something about Isabel that stopped me from feeling completely sympathetic towards her.
It's good historical fiction that does more than just tell a story - I'm glad I read and enjoyed it, but I did find the ending a little disappointing.