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The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman
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The Light Between Oceans (original 2012; edition 2012)

by M L Stedman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,0004281,365 (3.93)1 / 368
Member:adam.koprowski
Title:The Light Between Oceans
Authors:M L Stedman
Info:Doubleday (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Wishlist
Rating:
Tags:None

Work details

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (2012)

  1. 10
    Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A infant washes ashore on a remote island and is adopted by the locals, although the child's origins remain a mystery. Although Latitudes of Melt is set in Canada, not Australia, both character-driven historical novels are lush, detailed, and descriptive.… (more)
  2. 32
    Silas Marner by George Eliot (aliklein)
  3. 10
    Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio (dara85)
    dara85: This takes place in the past (1930's), a child is taken and goes to live with another family, involves a crime
  4. 54
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (aliklein)
  5. 00
    The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (dara85)
  6. 00
    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (kqueue)
    kqueue: Both present thorny ethical dilemmas in a historic setting with sympathetic characters.
  7. 01
    Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Both books have exotic, isolated settings and characters who experience great love as well as great loss.
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English (440)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (444)
Showing 1-5 of 440 (next | show all)
Until I got to Part 3, I had already decided that I was going to give this book only 3 stars.

Here's why:

I had to force myself through the first few chapters. Maybe it was just the author's style, but I didn't think the short and choppy sentences really worked. It felt unnecessary. I just finished Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, where every word and sentence just flowed. Reading TLBO felt like driving along a bumpy road. I also didn't like the "vignette" style this book was written in. I rarely say this, but this book just wasn't long enough. The snapshots just weren't enough to immerse you into the world or character's heads.

I wish the description on the back hadn't essentially given away the plot of Parts 1 and 2. For almost half of the book, I was waiting to get to the real action of the story beyond what I already knew.

I also didn't like how most of the book was Tom's perspective. I really, really wanted to understand Isabel. I wanted to get inside her skin and understand what it felt like to be on the edge of grief and sanity.

For me, THBO's biggest flaw was a lack of character development. I never quite got into Tom or Isabel's heads. And I really wanted to. I wanted to experience every emotion and heartbreak. I wanted to not hate Isabel and be frustrated with Tom. I wanted to feel for them. At the end, I sort of did. But I wanted more.

And yet. And yet.

In the last few chapters, TLBO suddenly redeemed itself from 3-star status.

First and foremost, if you are a lover of the rules (like me), this book instantly becomes incredibly stressful/fascinating. The main characters (good people, we've learned) make a terrible, awful, (and in my opinion) wrong choice. A choice that is so fraught with illogic and heartbreak and desperation that you have to know how it ends.

And this is where the book is redeemed. You can point your finger at sloppy writing and poor characterization, but this is powerful story. This is tragedy in all its beauty and messiness and heartache. The plot kept me coming back for more. And more. And more.

Could our beloved characters be redeemed? Could there be any meaning in the fallout?

(Side note: TLBO also had some lovely symbolism about light, opposing forces, and reconciliation. This could probably fill another review, but if you like interesting symbolism, you'll find it here.)

As I hungrily read the last chapter sitting on the floor of my bathroom at midnight, and I was surprised to find tears running down my face. Most books don't make me cry. But this one did. This one made me feel so much more than I ever expected. Even though TLBO could have been so much more, somehow it found a way into my heart.

To me, great stories are ones that allow me to experience tragedy in such a way that I am pointed back to how grateful I am for God: for having purpose beyond the people and circumstances in my life. It's healthy in our privileged American life to vicariously experience sorrow and tragedy from time to time.

So I'll finish by saying: Read it. Read it for the story and the sorrow. Read it to the end.

Read my full review at bigdipperbooks.com. ( )
  melissa_faith | Mar 16, 2019 |
A story about a lighthouse keeper family's life after world war 1 in a small West Australian community. Some sad bits, some joyous bits. A great tale. ( )
  thejohnsmith | Mar 3, 2019 |
Tom Sherborne returns from the trenches of World War I to his home in Western Australia and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. On the mainland, he meets a young woman named Isabel whose feisty, bright personality draws him, and they are soon married. Life on Janus Rock is both joy and hardship. Unable to begin a family, they are stunned when a rowboat washes ashore containing a live infant girl and a dead man. Neither Tom nor Isabel can imagine the consequences of their choice to raise the baby as their own.

Tom is a layered hero who wants to do the right thing but is afraid of what that could mean for Isabel's sometimes fragile state of mind. He grows to love baby Lucy and wants to be her father, but unlike Isabel he can never ignore that Lucy belongs to someone else, someone who might be searching for her. I felt for his dilemma and for his difficulty in communicating that inner struggle to his wife, especially when he tried to talk to her and was shut down by her refusal to listen. I spent much of the book frustrated with Isabel, though I'm not sure the author intended this. Sometimes she's a realistic character, a troubled woman; sometimes her breaks with reality seem to be a convenient excuse not to do the right thing (or a convenient way to prolong the drama of the plot). The same goes for Hannah, whose motivations sometimes make sense and sometimes feel like a plot device. But throughout the book, Tom rang true and made me care.

In fact, Tom's inner wrestling and love for Lucy in addition to the novel's compelling sense of place (especially Janus Rock's geography and the details of lightkeeping) might have wrung four stars out of me, if the writing itself had been tighter and more subtle. The point of view is omniscient, which isn't my preference, but it's wielded skillfully here. The problem areas include theme repetition, forced dialogue, rampant exclamation points--all of which make this drama feel occasionally like a melodrama. Multiple times, the author puts words in toddler Lucy's mouth that contain profound subtext to wrench the characters' hearts (and by extension the reader's, of course), but it's a transparent attempt and as such only jarred me out of the story.

Most of the book's scenes are no more than two pages long, and narrative summary abounds. Some of this is necessary, since the story spans a lot of time, but it's overused to the point of becoming noticeable early in the book. And what on earth happened with the verb tense? It alternates between past and present for no discernible reason, sometimes within a single scene. Talk about jarring.

The Light between Oceans is one of those tough books to review that made me want better on behalf of the story itself. A subtler touch with the style might have left me in tears. As it's written, I was continually reminded that the author wanted me to Feel Things, which mostly prevented me from doing so. Except for Tom. ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
Crikey, if you ever want to read a full-on emotional rollercoaster that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go, make it this one. It’s pretty clear from an early stage what is likely to happen, and though you dread it you have to read on. Then when it *does* happen there’s a journey to go on in which the characters have to figure out how to move forward. Perhaps the most gut-wrenching aspect of it is that virtually all the characters were likeable but someone was clearly going to end up miserable. At one point I found myself wondering how a modern day social worker would have sorted it out. Beyond the fact that a lot of meetings would probably be held, I’m not sure it would have been any easier than it was in the 1920s.

It’s a story whose time and place is very important – on the one hand, the remote setting of an island with a lighthouse and a population of two which enabled the plot set-up, and on the other, the fact that it is set a few short years after World War I. The war is subtly shown to have affected all the characters in different ways and this in turn affects events. Skilful and gripping, highly recommended. ( )
  jayne_charles | Feb 23, 2019 |
An isolated couple, having just gone through the trauma of a third miscarriage, find a three month old baby and believe (or want to believe) that she is unwanted. They decide to keep her. Nearly two years later they discover that there is in fact a heartbroken mother still clinging to hope that her baby will be found alive. Of course by now Lucy is firmly in their hearts, and they are the only family she remembers. A story about family, motherhood, love, guilt, and impossible decisions. Moving and sad. ( )
  Griffin22 | Feb 13, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 440 (next | show all)
Light" is a story you want to finish, despite some predictability problems. I cared about Tom and Isabel, and cheered for them even as they betrayed each other. And I was charmed by the supporting cast of characters (Bluey and Ralph in particular).

Stedman's grasp of the dialect of the region's inhabitants and dialogue fitting for the era are admirable. Her writing is sound, if sometimes uninspiring, but every so often she throws out a gorgeous line that you have to stop and read twice to appreciate, like this one: "A goblin thought jumps onto her shoulder: what's the point of tomorrow?" Or, "The rain is falling more heavily, and in the distance, thunder grumbles at being left behind by the lightning." Nice.

First-time novelist Stedman did what all good writers should do: She got her readers emotionally invested in her story.

As if you needed it, here's more proof that this novel is worth your time: The film rights have already been picked up.

 
The miraculous arrival of a child in the life of a barren couple delivers profound love but also the seeds of destruction.......A polished, cleverly constructed and very precisely calculated first novel
 
As time passes, the harder the decision becomes to undo and the more towering is its impact. This is the story of its terrible consequences.

But it is also a description of the extraordinary, sustaining power of a marriage to bind two people together in love, through the most emotionally harrowing circumstances.

 
Light Between Oceans' is tough to shake off....And to the author's credit, Light's resolution is neither sensationalistic nor overly tidy. Everyone in this book has to make tough choices, including the little girl. By letting neither her readers nor her characters off the hook easily, Stedman creates a bond that makes her book tough to shake off.

 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
M. L. Stedmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Delaney, ColleenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, NoahNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of my parents
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On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.
Quotations
There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way.
History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife, Isabel, live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.
The one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant - and the path of the couple's lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.
Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day - as the baby's real story unfolds...
M.L.STEDMAN'S debut is the mesmerising novel of loyalty, love and unbearable choices.
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"A novel set on a remote Australian island, where a childless couple live quietly running a lighthouse, until a boat carrying a baby washes ashore"--

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