The Light Between Oceans Book Review By M.L Stedman.
“The oceans never stop… the wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the Island… Existence here is on the scale of giants. Time is in the millions of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked from millennia…”
It has been a long time since a book broke my heart like this one did. I first heard about this book, when a friend, my now wonderful boyfriend, recommended it to me and told me that it was very much a ‘Sophie book’. Three days, and four litres of tears later, and bouy he was right. (See what I did there.) With a mix of those special memories, and this masterpiece of a novel, the Light Between Oceans will always have a special place in my heart.
The Light Between Oceans is the sole novel of M.L Stedman (desperately awaiting the next), and is an incredibly moving novel about what happens when good people, make bad decisions. You have may have heard of this book, as a recent motion picture starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender was released, which was a very close imitation, however I believe the book for me will always be the better.
“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.”
The story is set in Point Paratageuse, a small town in Australia, during the 1920’s, just after the First World War. It sets around a lighthouse keeper, seeking solitude and battling with the shame of surviving a war when his friends did not, and his young wife full of life, who is struggling with several miscarriages and the desperation to have a child. One day as if their call is answered, they find a boat containing a living baby, and a dead man, on the shore of their isolated island. It is Tom’s duty to report meticulously all the happenings, as the Island keeper, but through emotions and misplaced intention, they choose to raise the child as their own – the one that they could never have, choosing not to alert anyone, thus changing two worlds forever.
“Lives gone, traces left”.
This novel is a masterpiece in storytelling. Right from the get go, you are rooting for these characters. From the beautiful harsh tales of the war, and those left behind, to the lapsing descriptions of the sea air, the sunset, and the isolation, this book truly immerses you into their little world on the island. Stedman crafts such a beautiful story, and such truthful characters that it becomes difficult to morally judge their decisions and actions, and instead you find yourself completely sympathising for them, and everyone involved. It allows the reader to even question their own moral standing, and the narrative is so well presented that you can’t help but feel the same inner conflict as Tom and Isobel, which stops you from being able to put the book down for even a second. I spent three very long sleepless nights reading this, believe me.
The aspect of the book that especially appealed to my heart strings were the characters, and the love between them. We follow Isobel and Tom through the years, from Tom meeting her by chance, as a shattered man back from the War, to almost being brought back to life through her innocence and excitement for life once again. And when she too begins to feel as lost as he did, he chooses to do anything to make her happy. They are so believable and compliment each other beautifully, and their love drives the entire story. Everything they do is through Isobel’s love for the child, and Tom’s love at helping his wife find life again. It’s a very beautiful and moving piece about how far people are willing to go for love. You find yourself feeling sorry for every character, and wanting a happy ending for everyone, but of course life is not that simple and this book very much highlights that there is no such thing as a black and white simple situation when it comes to love and humanity.
“There are nights when the ocean is not even the ocean – Not blue. Not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting piece off the cliff. And the sound is the roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights when the light is needed most.”
I read this book so quickly, and finished this book with a knot on my heart and tears in my eyes, not wanting to let the story end just yet. If you are looking for a book that flips the coin on right and wrong decisions, with characters that you will fall in love with, you have to read The Light Between Oceans. Put it this way – I have two copies.
“When it comes to the ocean, anything’s possible I suppose. Anything at all.”
Three word summary: Timeless. Heartbreaking. Beautiful.