In my semi-regular wanderings through the crowded shelves of bookstores, I’d noticed this book many times, but for some curious reason I never bothered to take a closer look. All that changed recently when a friend recommended I read ‘The Light Between Oceans’ – yet another case of better late than never (and friends having excellent taste).
From the outset I knew this would be an emotionally charged story. I mean it’s right there in the book’s blurb, ‘They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours’ … so I knew what I was getting into (and if I’m being completely honest, I’m kind of a sucker for a tragic tale).
The Light Between Oceans includes a small cast of characters based in Western Australia and focusses on the story of Tom Sherbourne – a young lighthouse-keeper who is employed on the remote island of Janus Rock. Even during the early chapters of the book where happiness and love abounds, there is a subtle sense of foreboding which suggests that these good times may not last forever.
When a boat carrying a crying infant washes ashore on Janus Rock and disturbs the isolated existence of Tom and his wife Isabel, they ask themselves a life-changing question – what should they do with this unexpected arrival? Their answer has repercussions which reach far beyond the boundaries of their island home. While the right choice is initially clear, life in a private universe of two introduces a unique alternative – an option which is especially tempting for people like Tom and Isabel who have a great capacity for love and are struggling to overcome recent tragedies. Could this child offer them a new beginning?
M.L. Stedman’s writing is elegant and beautiful, and as a debut novel it’s an absolute stunner. I must admit that I do have a weakness for tales set near the ocean, and as I grow older I find myself increasingly drawn to stories based in Australia. But even given those concessions, The Light Between Oceans is a confident story that moves at brisk pace through happiness and heartbreak towards a clear destination. The characters are realistic, interesting and likeable – I found it impossible not to be drawn into their lives.
This book offers an eloquent reminder of the complexities and consequences associated with even the most well-intentioned of choices. It is a highly recommended read which does indeed tug at the heart, but the beauty of the story far outweighs any sadness (just don’t make my mistake and read the last few chapters while commuting on public transport … save the ending for home).
If you’ve read The Light Between Oceans I’d love to know what you think, or otherwise I’m always looking for more reading recommendations … so feel free to suggest one of your favourites.