SO! We’re just about halfway through July! As the world continues to spin, I continue to read!
I just finished the novel The Light Between Oceans written by M. L. Stedman. This was Stedman’s debut novel and it was listed as a top pick in 2012 by O, The Oprah Magazine, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. I happened to buy my copy from my local Barnes & Noble after the cover caught my eye and the first review in the cover was from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief (one of my absolute favorite novels)! He is listed as one of MANY praise-givers.
So, this book is somewhat of a love-novel with a twist of fate and thrill. The character that plays the largest roll in the entire book is Tom Sherbourne. After becoming estranged from his family, and after serving at the front lines in the war, Tom ventures to become the Light Keeper at a lighthouse on Janus Rock. Janus, located just offshore of the coast of Australia, is a desolated and lonely area where Tom finds solitude to cope with his life past. During his time serving as the Light Keeper, Tom meets Isabel, a local Point Partageuse (port closest to Janus) native. Both are swept away by each other, and she moves with him to Janus after their marriage. Sadly, during their time on the island, Isabel suffers from 3 miscarriages that spiral her into grief. She is only pulled back by the appearance of a small row boat that contains a dead man and a live baby. From there, her and Tom’s decision to not report the findings causes a rippling effect on their lives, as well as the life of Hannah Roennfeldt, the baby’s birth mother.
So this book was okay. It didn’t make it into my top favorites, but I still didn’t dread reading it. Lighthouse keeping is interesting, but not fascinating to me. I also don’t necessarily fancy Australia, so I wasn’t enthralled by that, either. The only aspect of this book that kept me reading was Tom and Hannah. Both characters were so full of hope and such depth that I couldn’t help to be drawn to their voices.
I felt that this story should have been a bit shorter. About half-way or so through this book, the number of characters’ voices we hear increases. That continues throughout… There was a lot at play at the end that added extra passages in that could have been omitted, or at least told from someone we had already heard from the beginning. The only points-of-view that I cared to read came from Tom, Hannah, and Isabel. The occasional Lucy-Grace addition was necessary and appreciated, but the others were useless.
Tom’s character was so magnificent! The quirkiness of this personalities due to his past were, in my opinion, expected and appreciated. I like that Stedman kept true with the troubles men often faced coming home from war. Tom struggled to appreciate that he had made it out alive and deserved a good life, and I think that was important for the reader to hear and understand. On top of that, I loved that he was still so genuine and loyal, despite his personal turmoil. He was struggling to understand his life, but was still willing to protect a lady on the ship! Even in the end, he was willing to sacrifice himself to give his wife a chance. He was written to be a noble man, and that is why, in the end, I was not surprised at how it turned out.
Hannah’s story and character were well written also. Stedman did a great job providing a background for their family and enough information to know how and why that baby ended up where it did. Hannah’s personal doubt, and her determination, were raw. She was willing to sacrifice her own life for another, proving her strength. Honestly, I liked her and her tale so much better than Isabel’s. If only Tom had introduced himself the night of the ship! How different this book could have been!!
Isabel’s character is where I find fault. She was written to be utterly selfish throughout the entire novel. She demands to be seen and to be loved by Tom in the beginning, despite him telling her about the loneliness on Janus. Later, she blames him for the loneliness he warned her of. She also holds resentment towards him for feelings that she is not even sure he has (anger for her miscarriages). Even in the end, I did not really care for her character. Unwilling to budge an inch to see that perhaps Tom was right. Grief is a monster, and I definitely saw that side in Isabel more than her good deeds.
This will sound a little…. picky… to notice such a thing…. but Stedman had an “inaccuracy” that I couldn’t forget! At one point, Isabel tells Tom that if she had to walk a straight line to prove her soberness she didn’t think she would pass. Correct me if I’m wrong, but walking the line in the sobriety test didn’t start until after at least the 1960’s (according to Google). Perhaps this is different in Australia, or maybe there have always been those test about walking prior to motor vehicles… but the phrasing made me pause. Little things can get to me.
Finally, I was so sad how this book ended. Despite the fact I didn’t care for Isabel, I think Stedman missed a grand opportunity to write about Isabel and Lucy’s encounter. It was a nice wrap-up though, and the book ended with a touching moment high-note.
Over all- good read! I learned names for animal’s that I’d never known before, and the mechanisms used for Lighthouses way back when… I also was reminded that Australia does not suffer the seasons in the same months as the US does (HA). It was an interesting story! I would suggest reading it on a rainy day.
Toodaloo, my book friends!