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The Light Between Oceans Paperback – April 2, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day’s boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple’s reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom--whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I--begins to waver. M. L. Stedman’s vivid characters and gorgeous descriptions of the solitude of Janus Rock and of the unpredictable Australian frontier create a perfect backdrop for the tale of longing, loss, and the overwhelming love for a child that is The Light Between Oceans. --Malissa Kent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Irresistible...seductive...a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page."—Sara Nelson, O, the Oprah magazine
“An extraordinary and heart-rending book about good people, tragic decisions and the beauty found in each of them.”—Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief
“M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans is a beautiful novel about isolation and courage in the face of enormous loss. It gets into your heart stealthily, until you stop hoping the characters will make different choices and find you can only watch, transfixed, as every conceivable choice becomes an impossible one. I couldn’t look away from the page and then I couldn’t see it, through tears. It’s a stunning debut.”—Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
“M.L. Stedman, a spectacularly sure storyteller, swept me to a remote island nearly a century ago, where a lighthouse keeper and his wife make a choice that shatters many lives, including their own. This is a novel in which justice for one character means another’s tragic loss, and we care desperately for both. Reading The Light Between Oceans is a total-immersion experience, extraordinarily moving.”—Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane and Untold Story
“Haunting...Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut.”—Booklist, starred review
“[Stedman sets] the stage beautifully to allow for a heart-wrenching moral dilemma to play out... Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The miraculous arrival of a child in the life of a barren couple delivers profound love but also the seeds of destruction. Moral dilemmas don’t come more exquisite than the one around which Australian novelist Stedman constructs her debut.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This heartbreaking debut from M L Stedman is a gem of a book that you'll have trouble putting down”—Good Housekeeping
“This fine, suspenseful debut explores desperation, morality, and loss, and considers the damaging ways in which we store our private sorrows, and the consequences of such terrible secrets.”—Martha Stewart Whole Living
“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.”—Victoria Moore, The Daily Mail
“A love story that is both persuasive and tender…”—Elizabeth Buchan, The Sunday Times (UK)
“What an extraordinary book this is. Tom, traumatised on the western front, takes a job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, 100 miles off the Australian coast between the Indian and Southern oceans, where he hopes that the vast surrounding emptiness will bring him peace. When after three years and as many miscarriages his wife hears a baby's cry and discovers a dead man and a baby in a washed up dinghy, she feels her prayers have been answered. The ensuing tragedy is as inevitable as Hardy at his most doom-laden. And as unforgettable.”—Sue Arnold, Guardian
“Lyrical…Stedman’s debut signals a career certain to deliver future treasures.” (People)
“A beautifully delineated tale of love and loss, right and wrong, and what we will do for the happiness of those most dear.” (Tova Beiser The Boston Globe)
“Elegantly rendered…heart-wrenching…the relationship between Tom and Isabel, in particular, is beautifully drawn.” (Elysa Gardner USA Today)
Told with the authoritative simplicity of a fable…Stedman’s intricate descriptions of the craggy Australian coastline and her easy mastery of an old-time provincial vernacular are engrossing. As the couple at the lighthouse are drawn into and increasingly tragic set of consequences, these remote, strange lives are rendered immediate and familiar.” (The New Yorker)
“Sublimely written, poetic in its intensity and frailty…This is a simply beautiful story that deserves the praise and wide audience it’s receiving. A stunning debut from a new voice that I can’t wait to hear again.” (Karen Brooks, author of Illumination)
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Top Customer Reviews
The first two-thirds of the book were very good, but the final third showed some difficulty in bringing all the facets of the story to a conclusion. So, in my opinion, the book sort of hobbled across the finish line, exhausted.
I loved it, hands down. The author creates a rich, full and beautiful world for us to explore within the story. Everything she describes is easy to envision and the characters seem like real people. It’s so easy to get lost within the pages and have all sorts of internal debates with yourself. The whole book is very morally ambiguous and I believe that it is part of the point the book is trying to make. What’s the right thing to do? What’s wrong? Is there an in-between? Who is in the right within the story?
The basic spoiler-free premise, is a young couple live on a lighthouse off the coast of Australia in the 1920s. After several miscarriages, a boat washes ashore the island with a deceased man and an alive infant. The lighthouse couple decide to keep the child and the story is what follows in the book.
I’m going to keep this review short and sweet because there will probably be a surge in popularity following the release of the movie. This book is beautifully written and will make you think. It has rich and full characters, beautiful landscapes and a story-line that hooks you and doesn’t release until the book is over. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone, regardless of what genre you prefer (I prefer horror, but loved this one). You will not regret it!
The scene for most of the book is a desolate island off the coast of Australia in the 1920s. Tom is the lighthouse keeper and has recently come back from WW I. The lonely life as keeper of the lighthouse appeals to him; it gives him the routine and discipline that is helpful to assuage the guilt he feels that his own life was spared but so many of his friends died in the War. He marries Isabel, a young woman who has lived a protective life but thinks of life on this island as a romantic adventure. The couple very much wants a child but, unfortunately, Isabel has three miscarriages. One day a boat washes up on the shore with a dead man and a living three-month-old baby girl. Isabel says it is God’s will that they were given this miracle baby and pressures her husband into keeping it.
This book is about choices. Isabel feels she deserves the baby. Tom thinks it is wrong for them to keep it, but he goes against his better judgment and gives in to Isabel’s wishes. Because of this lack of moral integrity, they cause much pain to themselves and others and are estranged from each other.
It was hard for me to feel sympathetic to Isabel. In fact, I did not like her. (Tom was more appealing and loving). Isobel had three miscarriages, which is sad, but she did nothing to consult a doctor between them. She was irresponsible in not having a doctor examine her. Perhaps, her miscarriages could have been prevented if she had done so. Isabel selfishly kept the baby without any consideration for the real mother. The island was not far from civilization, and inquiries could have been made. Isabel had no remorse for keeping Lucy, the baby, even when the real mother was located. She justified keeping the baby away from her birth mother by saying it was better for Lucy not to be uprooted from the only parents she knew. Isabel was a selfish person who let her husband get blamed for keeping the baby. Only towards the very end of the book did she take some of the blame on herself. Tom did jail time for his part, whereas she ended up on probation in the care of her parents.
During the convolutions of the plot, the right decision to make at a given time is called into question. Lucy is very happy with Isabel and Tom. Is it right to uproot her and return her to her birth mother, a stranger? Lucy goes through heartbreaking torment, as does her mother. However, eventually, the little girl adjusts to the birth family that loves her.
The last part of the book is somewhat redeeming because Tom and Isabel are living more honestly. However, it was hard for me to deeply immerse myself in the book when I could not identify with Isabel even though I have suffered a miscarriage as well.
This is the author’s first novel, so, perhaps, the second will be better.