Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mesmerizing, haunting, beautiful...

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me this book was mesmerizing. First of all there is the sheer poetics of the title, The Light Between Oceans. Janus Rock, the lighthouse, is on an island off the coast of Australia with the Indian Ocean on one side and the Southern Ocean on the other. That idea alone captivated me. Maybe because I live on an island with seven lighthouses I have an added empathy for people who live in these places that are both romantic and treacherous--where isolation can distort perspective and where it sometimes feels like you are alone in the world.

Right from the beginning we know that both Tom and his wife Isabel are damaged people. Tom seeks refuge from four years of war in isolation by taking the job of lightkeeper on Janus Rock and the isolation suits him He finds solace in attention to detail. Eventually he meets Isabel, an eighteen year old who has lost both of her beloved brothers to war. They are both broken-hearted people. When they marry and Isabel comes to Janus Rock at first things seem ideal but after three miscarriages, which she goes through alone except for Tom, Isabel is desperate for a child. So when one washes ashore in a boat with a dead man, it seems to Isabel it is an answer to her prayers.

I have read comments that criticize Tom and Isabel for trying to make the child their own but I felt complete sympathy for both of them. Totally alone in their beautiful but isolated world they made an ill-advised decision. Ultimately, of course, everything goes awry and there are consequences to pay.

To me both Tom and Isabel were believable and deeply real. They did the best they could with what they had to work with at the time. I did not find it a depressing story--especially because more than anything we are treated to a genuinely heroic and loving character in Tom. Isabel had moments when I wanted to shake her but Tom had such an amazing heart how could anyone not love him. I lovely, haunting story beautifully told. Well done.

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1 comment:

Sandra Nachlinger said...

Nice review. You beautifully expressed my impression of this book, which I also enjoyed. I'd say it's one of the best stories I read last year, and it's certainly one I'll remember.

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