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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 alternate Paperback edition.
"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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I had heard so much about this book and from such a wide spectrum of people that I added to my book group's reading list and we selected it for August. While not everyone loved it as much as I did, it generated more in-depth discussion than many books we have previously read and that, to me, is the sign of a good book.
I think it will appeal to the following audiences: people who love historical fiction, a strong sense of place, great writing, and being able to follow how individual choices made along the way can add up to a huge choice that one may not have made if the conclusion were evident from the beginning. I think the book will not appeal to people who like a lot of action and movement, who are looking purely for escapism reading with an uplifting story (and nothing wrong with that, it just isn't this book), or who have a difficult time visualizing walking in someone else's shoes and see the world very black and white.
This isn't my favorite book of all time, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and think the writing is stellar. As the storyline slowly unfolded, I could have been impatient to see what was coming next but the author did such a masterful job that I slowly walked the journey with the characters and felt their anguish and pain right along with them.
The story puts the characters in unique situations of asking what the right thing to do is, and how it will effect those around them. Overall I enjoyed it, with one complaint: although the pros are beautiful, the author switched back and forth between past and present tense for no apparent reason. To me it felt like a confusing, unedited writing style which negated other great things about the story. However I still recommend it and will be thinking about it for some time to come.
As the story progressed, it was almost painful to read and I must admit I almost put the book aside as I imagined a terrible tragedy approaching with the force of a runaway train (my imagination dreamt up a worse ending than the one that actually occurred). The ending is very true to the characters, even if it is not the kind of happy ending I love.
"The Light Between Oceans" is not an easy book to review....the story is unique and one wouldn't want to give away any part of the plot line. M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, her discriptions of the coast of Australia are beautifully rendered. The beginning of the book takes place on an island off of the coast of mainland Australia. Stedman does an excellent job of setting us in a remote spot. She also draws her characters so well that one finds themselves thinking of them between readings. They and their problems become real...one wants to advise them as to what to do, or warn them of things they shouldn't. This book is engrossing and with it's many plot twists and turns it is always entertaining...doesn't bog down or become predictable. Some of the passages are so profound that I found myself rereading them..... As stated by other reviewers, this is not a "happy" story. But it is a true to life story. The characters are flawed in ways that we all could possibly be .....M. L. Stedman...knows how to render time and place, people and situations with great skill. This is a first novel and I would not hesitate to read the next by this author....simply because I thought this was an excellent effort....we will be reading this for one of my reading groups. I have also recommended it to many of my fellow readers already. I know they will not be disappointed.
Part geography lesson, part historical novel, a bit of a mystery and above all a story of love...love of all types this book has been a joy to read. Greatful for the chance to do so. I am a fan. Read this story.....it is so well crafted, it will not disappoint.