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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
2,134None3,052 (4)1 / 209
Member:elizbullard
Title:The Light Between Oceans
Authors:M.L. Stedman
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:lighthouse; australia; baby; kidnapping; 1920s; soldier

Work details

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman (2012)

2012 (20) 2013 (45) Australia (177) Australian (14) Australian literature (13) baby (10) book club (26) ebook (22) family (33) fiction (219) historical (16) historical fiction (102) isolation (12) Kindle (21) lighthouse keepers (13) lighthouses (110) literary fiction (13) loss (13) love (22) marriage (45) novel (9) own (9) post-WWI (11) read (13) read in 2012 (20) read in 2013 (30) relationships (9) to-read (155) wishlist (9) WWI (26)
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    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (aliklein)
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Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
Being a lighthouse keeper had to be a very lonely job, especially on the more remote lights. But it was a very important job as well, requiring a meticulous caretaker who understood the nature of the job he was taking on and the gravity and magnitude of his duty. Obviously not all people were suited to working on a light station, with its solitude and rule bound life. And it certainly would have been a tough life on those who perhaps didn't understand it completely when they chose it, like the spouses of keepers. In M. L. Stedman's heartbreaking novel, The Light Between the Oceans, this remote and lonely existence coupled with unimaginable sorrows pushes a lighthouse keeper and his wife into making a decision that will tear apart several lives and leave holes in their hearts forever.

Tom Sherbourne enlisted in the Australian army and fought in World War I to get away from his father. That he survived the war didn't give him any satisfaction and left him with horrific memories. But he wasn't as damaged by his experience in Europe as many men and he came back physically whole, if mentally haunted. Wanting to keep an emotional distance from other people and settle into an easy and comfortable routine, Tom was the perfect person to pursue a job as a lighthouse keeper. Having done some relief work admirably at other remote lights, when a posting came up for the Western-most light off Australia, Janus Rock, Tom applied and was granted the position.

When the understanding and morally upright Tom traveled out to take up his post, he stopped in Point Partaguese before his final leg out to the light. It was here that he met Isabel, a young woman full of light herself who coaxed him out of himself and who came to mean the world to him. When they married on one of Tom's shore leaves, they were filled with love for each other and eager for their life out on Janus Rock. But after two miscarriages and an almost full term stillbirth, Isabel was almost broken when a boat washed up in the cove on Janus. In the boat was a dead man and a live infant girl. Isabel took the baby into her heart the moment she saw her and convinced Tom, despite his heavy misgivings, that the baby, who must certainly be orphaned, was sent to them by God. So Tom didn't report the baby's arrival on their chunk of rock a hundred miles off the coast, allowing Isabel to claim that baby Lucy was their natural born child. If he couldn't give his wife a child of their own, he could grant her this baby from providence. This decision, though decided upon with no malice, is a decision that will haunt Tom, threaten to destroy the Sherbournes, change their lives forever, and cause untold, unintentional pain to the baby's real mother, frantic and desperate back on the mainland.

Stedman has written an emotionally taxing tale of love, guilt, a moral conundrum, and the terrible price of our decisions. Wanting something so desperately doesn't make claiming that something right but it isn't always a black and white decision either. Her depiction of Tom's anguish over Isabel's pain and unraveling is heartfelt and lovely. He understands what drives her because of the nightmares and hauntings he's suffered since the war and yet he is willing to sacrifice his own sense of morality and of who he is as a person to keep his beloved wife from flying apart. The baby is a figurative light between two families just as Janus Rock literally stands between two oceans. But Lucy/Grace is also the reef upon which the boat of the Sherbourne's marriage will flounder.

The novel is quite slow to start, building Tom's backstory and then focusing on Tom and Isabel's unconventional courtship for quite a long time. And yet even with the slow build, Tom's complete and unwavering devotion to Isabel was still somehow unexplainable in its depths. Isabel certainly suffered more than her share of devastating losses out on the island but her unwillingness to even consider or acknowledge the losses that Hannah suffered in not knowing her husband and daughter's fate made her a little less than sympathetic as a character. Finally, the catalyst for the entire story, the arrival by rowboat of a dead man and a living infant, required quite a suspension of disbelief too. Given that it took hours for the supply boat, using an engine, to arrive at Janus, believing that the rowboat drifted there easily and the baby was no worse for wear other than being hungry is frankly incredible, even if the boat was being pulled along in a swift current. But if you allow for this situation to be true, the rest of the story is gripping as the reader watches the fates of the baby and of all those who love her play out in dramatic fashion. A tragic, harrowing tale of family, sorrow, deep and abiding love, and what we are willing to do and to compromise in order to keep our loved ones happy, this novel is a promising debut. ( )
  whitreidtan | Apr 11, 2014 |
Thought-provoking, well written, but sad. ( )
  libq | Apr 9, 2014 |
I have been in a deep reading slump and "The Light Between Oceans” was so very refreshing for me. I could almost feel the sea spray and smell the sea air. The details about isolated living on the tiny island really grabbed my imagination. The story swept me up like an ocean wave and kept me tumbling until the end. You can see the train wreck coming but have no idea how or when it will happen and how the characters will deal with it, you can't look away. This is a wonderful story about the fragility of being human.

“Perhaps when it comes to it, no one is just the worst thing they ever did.”
― M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
This was a reread for a book club meeting and as such I read it with a more critical eye. I have to say I did really enjoy it the first time but this time I found it hard to believe that they ever thought that they would get away with keeping the baby. I thought that surely they must have realised that she had a mother somewhere most likely on the mainland. I believe that as it was written Tom did however have an impossible choice for Isobel at that point was almost at the stage of having a mental breakdown and if they had not kept the baby this would surely have happened. The consequences of their actions impacted in a disasterous way on Lucy, both of them, Lucy's real mother, and many other people. Still I thought she did end it in the best way she could have and that Isobel and Tom did develop and change a little by the end of the story. I had forgotten all the details of the story as I read it this time so it did keep me interested and engrossed as I could not remember how it all turned out. I thought Stedman created a wonderful picture of life on Janus Rock. I felt a lot of sympathy for Lucy and Hannah. I could understand how distraught Isobel would have been but she still made me angry at times. So all in all I would rate it a little lower that last time . ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Apr 3, 2014 |
A début novel! You're kidding me, right? Turns out the M.L. Stedman has become a novelist after a good deal of living. And it shows. Such confident and assured writing that brings characters and places to life and, unlike so many others who try, makes the two blend together to tell the story and advance the plot. Too often descriptions of the landscape or the surrounds read like padding. Every sentence here seems to serve a purpose. Hardly the work of a young writer.

The story centres on a central dillema--what a childless couple should do with a baby that washes up (literally) into their lives. Keep her, or look for her parents in case they are not as dead as they seem? The plot follows a more or less predictable path and that helps the reader to engage with the moral and ethical difficulties of the characters. You hope for a clever authorial intervention to get us out of these difficulties, and, if it comes at all, it's only in the last few pages that we get a resolution that is more happy than sad.

Stedman has an unusual habit of changing from past to present tense. It bothered me when I first encountered it. I had to check back to be sure what had happened. After the first three of four tense-switch moments, I realised how well it was working to bring me, as reader, right into the mind and experience of the moment. Hard to carry this off, but Stedman does it perfectly. ( )
  PhilipJHunt | Mar 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 214 (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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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.
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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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