I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love my job. You know why? Because I am often sent books that are treasures. That’s not such a big deal, you say. There are a lot of books that are treasures, and why wouldn’t a publisher send them out. Well, really, what’s special is when the treasure is a book that I might never have picked up on my own.
The Light Between the Oceans is one such book. This beautifully written debut novel by Australian ML Stedman is a gift to readers.
Set in Australia in the difficult years after The Great War, The Light BetweenOceans introduces us Tom Sherbourne, a newly returned veteran. Changed forever by his experiences in WW1 trenches, and burdened by the label Hero, Tom takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock. More comfortable with silence than people, he is content to live alone with the rigid routines of life ‘on the light’. That’s until he meets beautiful and bold, Isabel. They marry and he brings her to live on the Rock. While their marriage is happy, she suffers two marriages and a stillbirth, events that change them forever. Especially when the ‘miracle’ happens, and Isabel hears a baby crying from a boat that has floated up to their little island.
What I loved: Oh, where should I start? I cannot even begin to describe Stedman’s beautifully lyrical prose. She really has a way with words. Something really interesting in her style was how she wrote paragraphs that were spare and others that were rife with description. It was almost as if she was saying, ‘Here, if you like descriptions, ready this, if you don’t, skim over.’ Another perspective on the writing style could be that Stedman was mirroring the dichotomies of communication of the times and the characters. After the war, they were ready to bust, but didn’t know how. Mostly prim and proper and not sharing their feelings, the language of all of the characters was minimal. Even Isabel, who generally spoke her mind, found moments to keep her mouth quiet. Spare and descriptive. Tight mouthed and effusive. Wild and rigid. The 1940s and British influence against the wildness of the Australia. The romance of Western Australia was a focal point in the novel, Janus Rock almost the third main character. Even the people in the story felt the same way, speaking of The Rock as if it was alive, just as Isabel went around naming the island’s landmarks. I loved the characters, Isabel and Tom even though they alternated between inspiring empathy and frustration (the other folk-family & townspeople- were brilliant too). The author skillfully wove a story where the reader was always one step ahead of the couple, and while I wanted to root for them and their pain, I also felt like shaking them on occasion. Regardless of the latter, they were always likeable-they and their plight touched me. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. Oh, and after all that, I cried at the end. Big alligator tears. The end was just wonderful. Surprisingly, it didn’t leave you wanting more, which many novels do. It was a good and proper ending to a wonderful story.
What I didn’t like: I could see how someone could find some of the descriptive paragraphs too much. I did find myself skimming on occasion, but it wasn’t enough to detract me from loving the story. I also loved the novel the most at the end. I don’t know if that’s a negative or not, but since I’m a hopeless sappy romantic, well, that’s where the book really touched me. I had to wait all of those pages.
Unputdownable Factor: 10/10
Recommend Factor: 8/10 (some people don’t go for all the waxing lyrical
Words to describe The Light Between Oceans: Gorgeous, fulfilling, heartbreaking
Note: I was sent a copy of Light Between the Oceans by Simon Schuster Canada. I’m ever so grateful. The opinions in this review are my own.