Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Shelved: Adult fiction (contemporary, historical)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Tom Sherbourne spent four years on the Western Front until the war ended and he moved back to Australia. Tom is continually haunted by his traumatic experience of war. Not happy to be alive; not proud to have served his country. But then he meets 19-year-old Isabel, who is bold, fun and free. They get married and move to solitary Janus Rock, half a day’s journey from the mainland, where Tom takes up a job as the lighthouse keeper. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, a boat washes up onto the island carrying a dead man and a tiny screaming baby…

The Light Between Oceans is a poignant and heartbreaking novel set on idyllic Janus Rock, making it a perfect book to pick as a ‘summer read’. I read it while sitting in my garden, enjoying the sunshine and imagining that the helicopters and traffic surrounding me were waves crashing down onto the coast. I also loved reading a novel that wasn’t set in the UK or USA. Janus Rock felt almost like an additional character. But we’re also shown that life on the island can be immensely difficult, isolated and cruel – not least for young Tom and Isabel.

At the start of the story, in April 1926, Tom and Isabel make the spontaneous yet life-changing decision to keep the crying baby that suddenly appeared on their island, and bring her up as their own daughter. It was impossible not to get emotionally involved; it’s such a major, personal choice, whether right or wrong. It was very clear to me what the morally (as well as legally) right thing to do was, but I understand why every character in The Light Between Oceans did what they had to do.

The Light Between Oceans mixes lyrical prose, a beautiful ocean setting surrounding a symbolic lighthouse and the star contained within, and a story about people, to create a breathtaking novel. It tells of Australia, of war, of prejudice and of the unlucky. It will make you wonder, ‘What would I have done?’.

Published: 26th April 2012 (UK) 7th August 2012 (US)
Publisher: Transworld (UK) Simon & Schuster (US)
Pages: 464
Source: Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing this book to review!
If you liked: The Sea Sisters & The Language of Flowers

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

  1. Looking forward to reading this but bracing myself as have warned that I will cry. Lots.

  2. Going straight to my To Read list :)

  3. I’m a footy-loving, beer drinking, meat mad bloke…I loved this book and cried for Izzy

  4. Much has been made of the dualities in Stedman’s Light Between Oceans (set between JANUS rock and the mainland). What strikes me in this regard are two things. One is the profound difference between the way men are written and the way the women are written. The women are problematic and tough and the men are uncertain and sensitive. Stedman also has a sophisticated way of articulating space in the novel; there is a sense of suspended animation on the island versus the hullabaloo of life on the mainland – up there with the best modernist writing.

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