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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans (original 2012; edition 2012)

by M.L. Stedman

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3,7783471,379 (3.95)1 / 323
Title:The Light Between Oceans
Authors:M.L. Stedman
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:lighthouse; australia; baby; kidnapping; 1920s; soldier

Work details

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

  1. 32
    Silas Marner by George Eliot (aliklein)
  2. 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
  3. 54
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (aliklein)
  4. 00
    The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (dara85)
  5. 00
    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)
  6. 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 (355)  Dutch (1)  English (356)
Showing 1-5 of 355 (next | show all)
A lifeboat containing a baby washes up on a small island where a lighthouse keeper and his wife live. The couple decide to keep the child, setting off a chain of events that could lead to dire results for all involved. Set in 1920's Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, in spite of the pervading mood of sadness. A unique and beautifully told story. ( )
  Gingermama | Dec 5, 2016 |
Minor Spoilers

“…the light stood guard, slicing the darkness like a sword.”
“…all this love, so bent out of shape, refracted, like light through the lens.”

“The Light Between Oceans”, set in 1918-1930, is M.L. Stedman’s debut novel. Born and raised in Western Australia, Ms. Stedman delivers an uncommon setting – a remote lighthouse on Janus Rock, manned by Tom with wife Isabel, who receive supplies once every three months and have shore leave once every three years. Isolation and remoteness dominate such a profession. Though eager for a family, they suffer two miscarriages and one stillborn leaving Isabel emotionally distraught. Soon after, a dinghy shipwrecks onto the island with a dead man and a crying baby. The reporting of the shipwreck, legally required by lighthouse keeper duties and morally required, was waylaid by the overjoyed Isabel, declaring the baby a gift from god. The little girl is claimed as their own “replacing” the stillborn and is named Lucy. Upon the child’s second year, the happy family on shore leave to main land Partageuese, discovers the truth and tragedy behind Lucy’s origin. This truth becomes the dividing force between Tom and Isabel as they swim through the murkiness they have created. Guilt, resentment, and anger cloud their lives at the lighthouse which escalate further when their lie is discovered. A new layer of deceit, this time weaved by Tom to protect Isabel from jail, complicates the tale. Will Isabel do the right thing or not bored me; because if Isabel didn’t, I would have been very upset at Ms. Stedman. The latter part of the novel at times felt contrived with ‘everybody hurts’ kind of pain, as though REM is spinning its 45 in the background (age test).

In some ways, this novel has all the ordinariness found in a bland Nicolas Spark type novel (yeah, I said it) – the PTSD war hero, a bubbly wife, estrangement from family, childlessness, a precocious child, the deception, and the inevitable truth. Yet, plenty of elements made this book worth reading, especially those related to Australia (landscape, lingo), the lighthouse and its lifestyle; the reverse climate brought a smile at times (“a tentative spring sun in September”). Then there’s the refusal to acknowledge one’s own guilt (including an entire town!), the physical and emotional pain upon losing a child, and the immense prejudice against anything German post WWI. The latter is a punch-in-the-gut reminding me again how our society has not learned hatred leads to tragedy. Writing wise, while this is not an epic novel, I appreciate the clarity in the different viewpoints as well as each person’s history. The theme of family, parent and child relationships dominate the pages. The book ended ‘right’, which is arguably also predictable. But in this case, it was justly right.

Favorite Character: Ralph – the skipper is the voice of conscience, the father-figure that everyone needs
Least-favorite Character: Sorry Isabel. I comprehend your grief, but your grief does not warrant inflicting pain upon others, particularly a pain you understand more than anyone else.

Some quotes:

On whole vs. portions – reminded me of a conversation with someone who disliked children being “dissected”, rather the nose or the eyes resembled mom or dad; they should be viewed as whole:
“’I suppose I’d never thought of it as being separate places. It’s all just Janus to me,’ Tom said, smiling.
‘It’s a world of differences. Each place deserves a name, like rooms in a house.’
Tom rarely thought of the house in terms of rooms either. It was just ‘home’. And something in him was saddened at the dissection of the island, the splitting off into the good and the bad, the safe and the dangerous. He preferred to think of it whole...”

On the grief from a miscarriage:
“…Now the room felt like a coffin, and her life stopped at its edges.”

On being a new dad – reminded me of someone’s description of his elation upon the birth of his daughter, his first child.
“In that little room lit by a paraffin lamp, with a back that was aching, on a chair that needed mending, he had told her, ‘I cannot imagine a more fortunate existence.’ The glow in his face was not from the lamp but from the tiny creature in the cot…”

On life at an offshore lighthouse:
“The isolation spins its mysterious cocoon, focusing the mind on one place, one time, one rhythm – the turning of the light. The island knows no other human voices, no other footprints. On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.”
“The oceans never stop. They know no beginning or end. The wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island, to make a point which is lost on Tom. Existence here is on a scale of giants. Time is in the millions of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia tumbled onto their sides so that layers become vertical stirpes.”

On forgiveness:
“He smiled that Frank smile. ’Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things… I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount. That I did a very proper job of hating, too: very Teutonic! No’ – his voice became sober – ‘we always have a choice. All of us.’”

On love:
“’Are you sorry you ever met me, Tom?’
‘I was born to meet you, Izz. I reckon that’s what I was put here for,’ he said, and kissed her check.
…His Izzy. His other half of the sky.” ( )
  varwenea | Dec 5, 2016 |
A beautiful, deep and painful read with real, relatable characters and a tearful yet perfect ending. ( )
  vira_t | Dec 2, 2016 |
I liked this very much. Slow build up of tension leading up to the climax. ( )
  gogglemiss | Nov 23, 2016 |
I don't normally read this kind of genre but the teaser sounded interesting so I picked it up. I enjoyed it. It was an easy quick read but I didn't think it was as fabulous as some of the reviews make out. But I wasn't sure what was going to happen at the end, so it kept me in suspense. I've tagged it as a romance but it is only partly that - family drama perhaps? ( )
  infjsarah | Nov 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 355 (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.
History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.
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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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