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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel Hardcover – July 31, 2012
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“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
"Irresistible...seductive...a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page."—Sara Nelson, O, the Oprah magazine
“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)
Top Customer Reviews
"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.
Tom Sherbourne has done something that hundreds of thousands of other young men didn't: survive four years on the Western Front. When this World War I veteran returns home to Australia, all he wants to do is to forget, to find a job where he can be of use, and to be left to himself. He takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly a half day's journey from the coast of Western Australia. It is a life of isolation. The supply boat comes four times a year, and shore leave might be granted every other year at best.
To this life, Tom brings a young, vivacious, and loving wife, but years pass, and after two miscarriages and a stillbirth, Tom sees that the wife he loves more than life itself is wasting away before his eyes. One morning while tending those tiny graves, Isabel hears a baby's cry on the wind. It is not her imagination. A boat has washed ashore. Aboard are a dead man and a tiny living baby girl.
No one has taken better care of the Janus Rock Lighthouse than Tom Sherbourne. Everything gleams; every bit of machinery runs smoothly; and his records are meticulous. Tom is an intensely moral man, and he wants to report the man and infant immediately, but Isabel has taken the baby and clings to her like a drowning woman to a life raft. Against his better judgment, the incident is not reported, and Tom and Isabel claim the baby as their own and name her Lucy. For Isabel, life is idyllic for two years. Then leave is granted, and the family of three return to shore where they are reminded that there are other people in the world, and their decision has ruined the life of one of them.Read more ›
Sadly, Isabel is unable to bear children. She has two miscarriages and one stillbirth. It is breaking her apart. Two weeks after her stillbirth, a canoe washes ashore at Janus and in it is a dead man and a live baby girl. Tom wants to report the dead man and return the baby but Isabel begs him to keep the child. He gives in to her and this starts a cycle of misery for everyone. They bury the man and keep the baby.
Who is this baby? Does she have a grieving family on the mainland? Who is the dead man and what are the circumstances of his death? What will happen to Isabel and Tom for breaking the law? All of these things are not really examined fully by them as both Tom and Isabel fall completely in love with this child they name Lucy. All that comes with Lucy to identify her is a beautiful silver rattle. There is no other identification.
As the book progresses, the above questions get resolved and a poignant, tragic and miserable future ensues. This is an interesting novel but it felt repetitive at times and I felt like I could predict what was coming. It makes for good reading and I look forward to the author's future works.
This is a good old-fashioned novel: plot driven with plenty of twists, well-drawn characters, poetic descriptions and good use of symbolism. Although I have never visited Western Australia, I could envision the places and people depicted in the book.
The Light Between Oceans as staying power--I continue to dwell on it despite the fact that I finished it months ago. It entertains and sustains.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First novel - plot seems contrived, not character-driven. Views over ocean from lighthouse very good. Nice try.Published 1 hour ago by Cornelia R.
I liked the book, and could not put it down. Like others have reviewed, she is a wonderful writer (her debut novel if I'm not mistaken). Read morePublished 1 hour ago by Amazon Customer
Good story. A little slow in the middle. True as to what happens in real lifePublished 2 hours ago by Douglas Stewart
Had a teacher when I was a sophomore in high school who said books that are written about. Read more