The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman
The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman I am often asked, by customers who come into the store, “What is the best book you’ve read recently”? For the past few weeks my answer has been The Light Between Oceans.
The Light Between Oceans is a first novel. I often write of how much I love first novels. There is something very wonderful about a good first novel – a freshness, a passion, which I believe is because, for whatever reason, this is the story that had to be told. In the case of The Light Between Oceans it is the story of Tom Sherbourne, Isabel Graysmark and their daughter Lucy – and the story of Hannah and Frank, and their daughter Grace.
Tom has returned from the Great War – a war that has left men dead in Europe, while others returned in pieces, with families grieving for them all. Tom accepts a position as the temporary lighthouse keeper on Janus Island – a rock 100 miles from mainland Australia – a warning to ships that there is a dangerous reef between the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean. It seems to Tom the only place he can find peace in this world. The daily lighting and extinguishing of the light, the maintenance of the lighthouse and the buildings on the island, provide him with satisfying work. When Tom meets Isabel she brings a happiness he could never have imagined into his life. Their marriage and life together on Janus, when Tom becomes the permanent lighthouse keeper on the Island, makes his life complete.
This is a remote island – there are supply boats only once a season, and shore leave only once every year or so. Tom needs nothing more, though Isabel wishes for a child. Isabel is in despair after several miscarriages, the most recent very late in the pregnancy, only days before a baby is brought into their lives in a very strange circumstance. A boat drifts onto the beach – containing a dead man and a baby. Tom believes they must immediately record the truth of the event – Isabel does not. She is able to nurse the baby and will not give her up. Tom, loving his wife, goes against his better judgment and allows her to keep the baby without disclosing to anyone that the child is not their own. Isabel’s parents, whose two sons died in the war, are ecstatic that they now have a grandchild – and life goes on.
This is an author who can write about grief – and love – and life. The conclusion is tragic, although there is no loss of life, there are many broken hearts and tragedy for everyone involved. I started to read The Light Between Oceans on quiet afternoon in the store – went home for dinner – picked it up afterwards and read late into the night until I finished – in tears. It is very seldom that I do not have the self discipline to put a book down and get a good night’s sleep no matter how much I want to continue reading. So, be forewarned.