The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Tom Sherbourne, released from the horrors of the First World War, is now a lighthouse keeper, cocooned on a remote island with his young wife Izzy, who is content in everything but her failure to have a child.
One April morning, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man – and a crying baby. Safe from the real world, Tom and Izzy break the rules and follow their hearts.
It is a decision with devastating consequences.
There has been such a fantastic buzz surrounding this book for so many months now that I really couldn’t wait to read it! Honestly, I’m not sure it’s something I would have picked up myself, but with a quote of praise from my favourite author Markus Zusak featured on the cover; I couldn’t not give it a go! Now I can safely say, I’m very glad I did.
This book literally has everything you’ll need out of a book this summer: a fantastic and truly gripping story, intriguing and well written characters, and of course some beautiful prose to weave it all into place. I can barely fault Stedman at all here. For me, The Light Between Oceans achieved what Charlotte Rogan failed to do in The Lifeboat. I know many of you loved The Lifeboat, but I really failed to connect to any of the characters, and felt that it wasn’t quite addressing the matter of life and death, and the choices we make and their consequences, as well as I would have liked. But Stedman achieves this and does so exceedingly well.
I became so emotionally involved in the lives of Izzy and Tom, the newly wed couple, living a quiet existence alone in a lighthouse on a remote island off the coast ofAustralia, and unable to bear any children of their own. After numerous miscarriages, I felt just as blessed as they did when a boat washes up on shore with the corpse of a dead man, and a crying baby. I didn’t judge them for keeping it, or even thinking of keeping it. How could I? Who is to say what any of us would have done in their position? To them, it felt like a gift from God, and it’s not difficult to see why.
When Tom and Izzy discover that the baby’s mother is in fact alive on the mainland, and has been in an extreme state of grief ever since her husband and baby vanished across the ocean one night. This is where the story really comes into its own, and where Stedman’s talent as a storyteller comes to the forefront. As a reader you are torn between Izzy, the woman who has longed to be a mother for many years, and has constantly fought a losing battle against mother nature’s determination for it not to be, and then you have Hannah, the woman who has lost her husband and her child, and who the entire town thinks is crazy because she believes they will return to her. If you knew this woman’s child was alive, but was loved very much by another, what would you do? Stedman forces you as a reader to address some important questions about humanity, and makes you constantly switch between sides. One minute you’re rooting for Izzy, the next you’re rooting for Hannah. But how long can something like this stay secret? Especially when Tom’s conscience is weighing him down; forcing him to put the life of another woman before his wife and her needs.
I truly adored this novel, not only is it extremely well written, with a lovely literary flare to the prose, but it is also a superbly written story, with characters that still hold a little piece of my heart. Of course I’ve talked plenty about the plot and the characters, but I also have to commend Stedman on the wonderful details that went into creating the time and place of the novel, and the research she must have undertaken on what it took to be a lighthouse keeper. This whole premise really fascinated me. I just couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to be entirely by yourself on an island for months at a time, with no one to talk to, and no reason to even use your voice. It just goes to show what kind of person it takes to withstand these conditions, without going crazy, like I’m sure I would!
If you’re looking for a well written yet gripping story to keep you intrigued and turning the pages this summer, then I would definitely recommend this! It’s a beautiful novel, one that forces you to look at life and all its decisions and their consequences. Stedman has proved herself as a wonderful new voice in fiction, and I honestly can’t wait to see what she will write next. My only sorrow is that I wish this had been included in the Waterstones 11 selection of debut novels, as I think it deserves much more recognition. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed for other opportunities on the horizon…
The Light Between Oceans is out now, published by Doubleday. A massive thank you goes to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy for review.