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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
4,0083641,277 (3.95)1 / 338
Member:tibobi
Title:The Light Between Oceans
Authors:M.L. Stedman
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
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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Showing 1-5 of 370 (next | show all)
It was a good and then it just got...sad. While I feel for the main characters and I know that Tom was caught between a rock and a hard place (almost literally at that), I can't say that they didn't get what was coming to them. There were a lot of shoulda coulda wouldas. The real victim is the child and sadly this novel could almost be true as we have seen similar (though not totally) situations happen. I liked the book just not as much as I thought I would. ( )
  jnoble82 | Mar 20, 2017 |
Let me compose myself with some shallow breathing exercises before I begin. . . Okay. I can do this. I find it mildly amusing that, looking back, when presented with this book club selection, I thought to myself, “Dear Lord, why?! I can’t stomach another Hallmark movie original!” (We had just finished Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, which I will complain about at a later date, and I was in the mood for a nice Victorian saga, not what appeared from the looks of it to be a book written for the sole purpose of becoming a feel-good, family film.) I could not have possibly been more off-base.

Our club met at the Museum of Fine Art in St. Pete recently to dialogue on the book and lunch (verb). 4 out of 5 of us loved this piece! (and I think the one hold out may have been influenced by our near unanimous dismissal of The Nightingale.)

I was won over from the novel’s start by our protagonist of sorts, Tom Sherbourne, though one can argue there are two others who trade off for the title, and his misanthropic tendencies. He’s not an anti-hero per se, just a guilt-ridden soldier running from his post-war demons. Driven by a desire to get the heck away from people and be engulfed by nature, he signs up for one of the most remote lighthouse postings in all of his native Australia. Despite his efforts to be alone, he soon finds himself enticed by the what ifs of possible domestic bliss when he meets Isabel Graysmark, a young headstrong girl looking for adventure.

The crux of the novel, and this is not a spoiler alert by any means, is that he and his young bride (yeah, she wears him down) find themselves in a quandary when one night, a rowboat containing a baby wrapped in a woman’s sweater, along with a dead man, drifts ashore. The newlyweds find themselves at odds with what to do: report the body and baby to the powers that be or speak not a word and keep the baby as their own . (Keeping it may seem like quite the leap, but I’ve left out quite a few key details so as not to spoil the build up.) Both Tom and Isabel pose original, convincing arguments as to what should be done, citing practical, logistic, religious, and ethical reasons as to why they believe their proposed course of action is the correct one. As a student and teacher of rhetoric, I found this fascinating, loving a good argument and counter-argument. Ultimately, a decision is made, by one of the pair and the other more than a little unwillingly goes along with it. The remainder of the novel details the consequences, both beautiful and hopeful, as well as heartbreaking and tragic, that result from it.

Stedman really got me with this one. I bawled, like out loud sobbed, at more than one point in this book, and I can’t blame it on characters being killed off (because Stedman is better than that), hormones, or anything except for the depth of feeling that exists between parent and child. The novel repeatedly forces the reader to simultaneously recognize and question familial ties, ownership, nature and nurture, and what is “right”.

Though as mentioned above, I did a fair deal of crying and was emotionally wrought throughout, I absolutely loved this work! The characters were relatable, imperfect. The plot was complex and emotional, but not cheap and manipulative by any means. Rather than feeling that I was supposed to think or feel something, I felt Stedman was entertaining a dialogue, one in which I was free to make my own judgments. I also absolutely loved the gorgeous prose and stylistic quirks woven throughout the work, such as the use of present tense in the first paragraph of each new scene and subsequent shift to past as the action unfolds. Stedman is quite gifted and I can’t wait to read anything and everything else she turns out!

I haven’t been this affected by a book in quite some time, and I’m fresh off reading several war novels, a tragic romance, and a kidnapping mystery. I cannot wait to see the film when it hits theaters this September but am thoroughly prepared to be disappointed since, admittedly, I am an elitist snob. “Sigh.” It’s hard having such distinguished taste. ( )
  Bookwormshawn | Mar 2, 2017 |
When Stedman describes life on the remote lighthouse island you can almost feel the ocean waves crashing in next to your reading chair. A transporting read. ( )
  dele2451 | Feb 27, 2017 |
This book is filled with sadness and loss. There are happy moments but even those are shadowed by secrets and wrong doing.

Tom Sherbourne is haunted by the war and the things he had to do as a soldier. He also has some survivors guilt. Long time ago the lighthouse keepers were needed to set the light, take care of the structure and of course serve as warning to those sailing ships who may otherwise be unaware of the rocks and shore. Janus is a perfect island sanctuary for someone as haunted as Tom.

From Chapter 1:
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. If he can only get far enough away – from people, from memory – time will do its job.

The writing is lyrical and you can certainly picture the scenes, see Tom’s frown, hear Isabel’s peals of laughter. Before heading out to his post it’s customary to join the Harbormaster and family for a dinner. This is where he meets Isabel, actually for the second time. She was feeding birds when he first spoke to her and he is enchanted with her vibrant outlook on life.

Fast forward and they are writing to one another and eventually marry. The happiness is short lived when Izzy has several failed pregnancies. As she is tending one of the graves of her stillborn children she hears a baby cry. It must be her imagination, or madness. Then Tom yells there is a boat adrift in the cove and they run to it. Inside is a dead man and a live baby girl.

Tom, as keeper of the books on the lighthouse, needs to record this event and signal for a ship to come and pick up the baby and the body of the man. This is where things go south. Isabel wants that baby with all her heart.

Tom: “But that’s just it. We don’t need to do anything wrong. We could report her now and apply to adopt her. It’s not too late, Izz. We can still make it right.”

“Adopt her?” Isabel stiffened. “They’d never send a baby to a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere: no doctor, no school. No church probably worries them the most. And even if they did put her up for adoption , they’d want to give her to some couple in a town somewhere.”

Isabel names the baby Lucy and becomes the perfect most patient young mother. Lucy thrives on the island. Isabel is content to let people know she gave birth and pass Lucy off as her own. After all, people knew she was pregnant and being so isolated no one knew of the miscarriages. Tom begins to love the child but he is troubled by the perjury of records, he is worried about whose baby this is and the grief the mother must be experiencing. As he continually mentions they need to tell someone about Lucy, Isabel is always ready with an argument why they shouldn’t.

They start to fall apart. Isabel questions Tom as to why he’s put so much spit and polish in for the next inspection.

“I want it shipshape, that’s all. I’ve told you, we’re in with a chance for the Point Moore posting. We’d be on land, close to Gerladton. Near people. And we’d be hundreds of miles from Partageuse.”

“Time was you couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Janus.”

“Yeah, well, times change.”

“It’s not time that’s changed, Tom,” she said. “You’re the one who always says that if a lighthouse looks like it’s in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”

“Well you work out what has,” he said as he picked up his spanner and headed off……..

Meanwhile, you read about Lucy’s mother who is alive and grieving all these years for her husband and her baby named Grace. There are plot twists you won’t see coming. This is not a predictable outcome and you feel empathy for both Isabel and Lucy/Grace’s mother just about equally. This isn’t a happily ever after book but it is a well written novel, the imagery and emotions are first class.

I would like to read more by this author. Not sure if I’d watch the movie though. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Feb 24, 2017 |
I read this book because it was my book club's book of the month. I can't say I enjoyed it, there is the basic right/wrong plot line, that could have made for a really good book, but it was way too wordy for me, maybe if it had been cut to about half of what it was. I had to force myself to finish this book, I felt sorry for Tom but otherwise really could not get into any of the other characters. I am a mother by adoption, I've had miscarriages, so I felt I should have some connection with Isabel, but I just couldn't stand her, she was to selfish and her decisions ruined many lives, but she just wanted to punish those that disagreed with those decisions, because it was her "right" to have a child. ( )
  SA_Jane | Feb 18, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 370 (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.
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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