I was asked to give my opinion on this book by a friend who was considering reading it. I told her to purchase it without hesitation, as I knew, having read it myself, that it would be thoroughly enjoyed. Hence the review post.
The Light Between Oceans is M L Stedman’s debut novel but you would never guess so. The story is so beautifully crafted that you would expect Stedman to have a string of novels to her name. I will certainly be keeping my readers eye out for future books from this Australian author.
Having survived the trenches of WW1 Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia physically well but mentally scarred by the horrors of his experience.
Securing a job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote Janus Rock, Tom immerses himself in the occupations isolation.
Whilst on a trip to Point Partageuse, the nearest community back on the mainland, Tom meets and falls in love with local girl Isabel Graysmark. They marry and return together to Janus Rock where they long to start a family but tragically suffer a series of miscarriages.
So when a boat washes up on the rocks containing the body of a man, and a screaming baby girl, the Sherbourne’s make a decision that will ultimately break their hearts.
Choosing to bury the body and take the child as their own will be a decision that causes unimaginable guilt and haunting consequences, not only for their family, but also for an entire community.
Stedman richly describes her characters and settings and covers a range of emotions from the view points of different individuals, while managing to attach the same levels of importance to each. Isabel’s loss and sense of doing what’s best, Tom’s sense of duty and guilt. The shock and hurt of family and friends after discovering the Sherbourne’s secret, the biological mothers sense of grief and longing for justice and a young child’s sense of confusion and loyalty. Love, sacrifice, truth and morality are all given room to play out in the book.
The story is convincingly told and illustrates how easily the lines between right and wrong can sometimes become blurred.
Tom and Isabel’s actions speak of their loss and desperation and while half of you sympathises with their predicament the other longs for them to be discovered and the child returned to her rightful parents. The Sherbourne’s truly believe they are acting in the girls best interest and raise her in love, so does this make their actions right or wrong? And although they acted out of kindness does this make their decision acceptable?
This is a tale that makes you question your own sense of morality and how you would act in a similar circumstance.
Through the writing the characters come alive in your mind to such an extent that you pray for a solution that will please everyone although deep down you know this just isn’t possible.
This book is a lovely, heartfelt read. While both moving and enjoyable it will also chill to the bone as it brings home the realisation that one decision can have a lifetimes worth of consequences.