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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel [Light…

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel [Light Between Oceans] by ML Stedman (original 2012; edition 2012)

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3,3923151,596 (3.97)1 / 282
Title:The Light Between Oceans: A Novel [Light Between Oceans] by ML Stedman
Info:Scribner (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Historical fiction, Australia, lighthouses, marriage, read in 2012

Work details

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

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I had a tough time putting this book down.  Author M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, influencing her descriptions of the fictional settings in the story, the Janus Rock lighthouse and the town of Point Partageuse (apparently located near the real town of Augusta and the mainland lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin. In Australia, the Cape is considered the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.).

In an interview, Stedman had this to say about her setting:

"The theme of duality runs right through the book, and location is a physical manifestation of that duality. It reminds the reader that there’s always more than one way of looking at things: without giving away too much about the plot, there are two aspects to the baby’s story, and two locations – Janus Rock and Point Partageuse. The two oceans have (or perhaps are) very different characters – the Great Southern Ocean is icy, fierce and treacherous, and the Indian Ocean is warm and calm in comparison. This duality is echoed, too, in the island named after Janus, a Roman god who has two faces looking out in opposite directions. He stands for beginnings and transitions, so his image was often found on doorways and thresholds (the state of ‘between’ alluded to in the title). The doors of his temple in the Roman Forum were open in times of war and closed in times of peace: Tom retreats from war to find peace in solitude, but is confronted with conflict on a deeper, more intimate scale."

The book starts on April 27, 1926, when a rowboat washes up on Janus Rock.  Tom Sherbourne, the lighthouse keeper, discovers a dead man inside....and a living baby girl.  His wife Isabel has just had a stillborn child after two miscarriages, and she persuades Tom to keep the baby, against his better judgment.

Part I then gives the backstory.  It flashes back to December 1918, when World War I veteran Tom takes the keeper job at the remote lighthouse that is half a day's boat ride from the mainland.  On his way there, he meets Isabel Graysmark in Point Partageuse.

Part II returns to that fateful day in April 1926, and then what happens after, when Tom and Isabel learn the truth about baby Lucy.  The book ends in August 1950.

This is a fascinating story with a moral dilemma with no clear answers.  Highly recommended!

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The e-audiobook, as well as an e-book for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.] ( )
  riofriotex | May 14, 2016 |
Enjoyable story with great character arcs. ( )
  proserpinarex | May 12, 2016 |
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. My bookclub read it for our January meeting. This is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife, Isabel. They live on Janus Rock and keep the lighthouse, located off the shores of Australia. This is set directly after World War I. Isabel experiences several miscarriages, and things get tricky when a boat with a crying baby washes up on the shore.

Both characters fight for their moral compass amongst the raw emotions. I enjoyed the book. The book brings out many moral questions. What is right? I really enjoyed this. ( )
  heidip | May 9, 2016 |
Wonderful story, the last 100 pages flew by for me, I couuldn't put the book down. The ending was I felt appropriate or I should say outcome was appropriate, I don't know how I would have liked it had it came out differently. ( )
  gma2lana | May 9, 2016 |
This is exactly the kind of book people pick for book clubs. There is a lot of fodder for discussion about the choices and morality of the characters. (Would you have done what Isabel did? If not, what would you have done differently? Do you think Tom’s war experiences influenced his decisions? Did you know anything about the First World War before this? The townspeople were unwilling to admit they had a hand in what occurred on Anzac Day, do you see examples of that same type of prejudice in the world around you today?) Yep. Perfect for book club.

However, I had the same problems with this as I have had with many “book club” books. It was just so bland and “white bread”… I didn’t find the characters particularly interesting (or believable)… the plot was wrapped up far too neatly at the end for my taste. It will make a good “movie of the week” on certain cable stations (other immature snarky remarks deleted). I’m pretty sure I won’t remember anything about this in a couple of weeks except some details about the working of the lighthouse – now that *was* interesting.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 321 (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.

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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.
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.
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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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