Review: The Light Between Oceans

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner
Published: January 2012
Genre(s): historical fiction, Austalian, post-WWI
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):  

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

This is a really interesting read. I actually probably wouldn't have picked it up from reading the synopsis, but a mentor said I HAVE to read it. And while I was expecting a bit of a different plot (?) it turned out to be an excellent read.

The briliance of Light Between... is that Stedman offers up an awful scenario, but also effectively develops each parties point of view so compassionately that there is no clear answer as to how to rectify the situation cleanly. (And so nice to see him come out of Oprah's shadow and develop his own creative voice! Har har.)

The other ingenious piece to this sticky situation is the anti-German sentiment that dominated every other country involved in WWI. In Cat Winters' novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds set during the same paranoid post-war time period in  America, where they apparently burned anything to do with Germany: art, old records, philosophy, literature, etc. and anyone who didn't conform were turned in by their neighbours. In Australia and New Zealand they have Anzac Day* as their Rememberance Day and in 1926 the loss and memories were still so raw they decided to make the only "German," Frank, a scape-goat for their [drunken] rage. And the rest, as they say, is fictional history!

The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I was so torn between all of the characters, and it was stressful because Stedman connects the reader to everyone's plight. It did give me a taste of Australian literature and I'm going to increase my reading list to be more inclusive.

4.5/5 stars!


Thanks for reading!

~ Spinning Jenny

On settling in western Australia, early 20th century: "Nature allowed only the fit and the lucky to share this paradise-in-the-making." (Hey! Foreshadowing!! ~JS)
Post WWI: "... the war memorials would sprout from the earth , dwelling not on the loss, but on what the loss had won, and what a fine thing it was to be victorious. 'Victorious and dead,' some muttered, "is a poor sort of victory (18).'" 

* Austalia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day

No comments:

Post a Comment