The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman

13158800The Light Between Oceans is the debut novel of author M.L.Stedman.  It’s a beautiful story about love, loss and hope. It’s one of those stories that you can really get lost into and I can understand why so many people loves the book and recommend it so often. It is also the Goodreads choice winner of 2012.

It tells the story of war hero, Tom Sherbourne who goes to Australia after serving in the war. He starts a new job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated “island” called Janus Rock. However, before he leaves to the island on his first term he meets a young lady, called Isabel, quite by chance.  As fate would have it, he runs into her again at a dinner party where he and Isabel strike up a friendship.  Of course, as these stories tend to go, they fall in love.

After marrying Isabel, she moves with him to Janus Rock.  They live alone and have no contact with the outside world, except the boatmen that comes to the island every few months with supplies. Life isn’t easy for the pair, as Isabel struggles to have children. After having two miscarriages and one stillbirth, Isabel falls into a depression. However, one day a boat washes up on the island, in it a dead man and a crying baby. Isabel, believing that the baby has been sent to her by God, wishes to keep it. Convincing Tom that the baby’s mother is most likely dead like the father, Tom does not report the incident for the sake of Isabel. They name the baby Lucy.

Tom gets leave every 2 years, to which he returns to the mainland. Lucy is two years old when she meets her grandparents (Isabel’s parents) and they take advantage of their leave period to get Lucy baptized in church. However, when back on the mainland, Tom learns of Hannah’s plight: losing her husband and child in 1922, but she still hopes and believes that her child and husband are still alive.  Isabel and Tom both know Hannah and of course this causes a lot of stress on the couple, because now they are faced with a dilemma: h

Isabel is against speaking up, because she is afraid of losing another child. Tom however, doubts his decision and trying to reason with Isabel is a fruitless exercise, thus causing strain on the couple’s relationship.  For two years Tom has struggled with his conscience, but eventually Hannah finds out the truth, in which Tom has had a hand and for which Isabel feels betrayed.

Suddenly the novel moves into the territory of right and wrong. Which in this case is a grey area. I find myself getting quite annoyed with Isabel. I understand her reasons, but only up until a certain point. Yes she has lost children, but she also only thinks of herself. She allows another woman to go through the exact same pain as she did with losing a child because she is selfish.  Regardless of the fact that the couple had good intentions of looking after the baby, learning that her mother is alive, should have been reason enough to make things right. Return the baby to the rightful mother, which Tom wanted to do, but Isabel manipulated and guilted him into keeping quiet. Using Lucy (real name “Grace”) as a bargaining item.

The story delves deep into the human psyche. And it keeps the reader engaged and emotionally invested in the character’s stories. I find myself rooting for Hannah and to getting her baby back, but even though I see reason in some of her choices and not in others, I am happy that the story turned out the way it has. For Hannah and Lucy/Grace. As well as Tom and Isabel. The story’s ending is bittersweet and it’s one of those novels where you’re just satisfied with how the story developed.

The novel was well written, as I said it’s very engaging and it handled this moral dilemma with sensitivity and authenticity. There are a lot of passages in the book that I liked and some I disagreed with, but there was this particular one where Hannah thought back to one of her  conversations with her late husband that stood out for me:

 “But how? How can you just get over these things darling?” she had asked him. “You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?”

“I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget”

“But it’s not that easy.”

He smiled that Frank smile. “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”

He laughed, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow. “I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount”

I agree with this so much. It’s just something to think of the same way with a lot of other things the book brings up. The Light Between Oceans is definitely a book I would recommend, I enjoyed it a lot and gave it 4 stars.

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  • I enjoyed reading this book. Like you, I was annoyed with Isabel at times, but I could see where she was coming from. And while I may have hoped for a different ending, I thought it was handled very realistically and, as you say, with sensitivity. It is one of my go-to recommendations when people ask me what they should read next.

  • SUCH a grey area. I remember this one tearing me up a little. Obviously, once they knew the mother was alive, they needed to return the little girl. But women do strange things where children are concerned, especially ones that have lived with that loss before, that know what it will be like, that are willing to do almost anything to not go there again. Fiona Barton’s The Widow kind of touches on this same idea – albeit in a really twisted way. Looking forward to seeing this one on the big screen!

    • I must admit, I was never moved enough to shed tears. I agree with you, they should have returned the girl when they learned her mother was alive. That’s what annoyed me most about Isabel. I mean, I understand her reasons for wanting to keep the child, but it’s NOT her child. Her own struggles aside, it wasn’t her decision to make.

      Thanks for the recommendation of The Widow. Will check it out!

  • Isi

    Oh, I have seen the book here and there, but I hadn’t read what it was about. Sounds really good, so I have to read it. I want to know what happens with the baby 🙂

    • It’s a nice story that deals with a moral dilemma. There is a movie coming out soon, Lianne posted the trailer on her blog.

  • Great review, I’m glad you enjoyed it Melinda! I recently picked up a copy of the book myself and may get around to reading it soon (alas, drawbacks of being such a mood reader, lol) 🙂

  • Jennine G.

    Glad you liked it, I did too. Can’t wait to see the movie.

  • Ciska van der Lans

    Loved this book, there are so many beautiful parts in this book. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • I’m glad that I only read it now, because now the story will be fresh in my mind just in time for the movie release.

  • Miss EJM

    I didnt read the post yet as I am currently busy reading the book, but so far I love it.