Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

by Becky
Published: Last Updated on

Why: I was intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming motion picture version of The Light Between Oceans and heard it mentioned that it was adapted from a New York Times Bestseller. When I looked up the book and saw the awards, reviews and then the extremely long wait list at the library, I figured it was worth a read!

The oceans never stop. They know no beginning or end.

Story: After World War I combat veteran, Tom Sherbourne finds solace in working as a lighthouse keeper in the oceans surrounding Australia’s dangerous coastlines. While stationed on the small island of Janus Rock, Tom marries Isabel Graysmark – a woman full of charm, spunk and vitality. Isabel comes to appreciate the isolated life on The Lights, but after losing three children to miscarriages and a stillbirth, she is desperate for a family.

When a boat carrying a dead man and living baby girl washes ashore on their secluded spit of land, Isabel deems it a “gift from God”. Tom is convinced to break protocol and report the baby as their own. Life moves along until it is discovered that the girl’s birth mother is alive and hasn’t given up the search for her long-lost husband and daughter. The Sherbourne’s decisions will alter the lives of many forever.

Looking into those eyes was like looking at the face of God.

Opinion: I am glad that I read this book. I will NOT, however, watch the movie, but only because I am not a fan of sad stories! I know most stories have their ups and downs, but my sensitive self can’t handle the emotional stress of too many plots like this! But back to the book itself…

M.L. Stedman’s writing is wonderfully detailed and has a poetic quality to it. My favorite passages are those that describe Janus and the natural environment, especially the constellations and stars. Also, it amazes me when good authors can create specific feelings with their words. While reading this novel, I truly believe I could feel a sense of isolation that varied between peace and despair.

…the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.

Recommendation: I’m struggling with how to describe my recommendation. I think the best way to sum it up is that if you are a casual reader, wait and see the movie. If you are a more avid reader prepared to shed a tear or two (or at least tear up), this is an excellent choice. The layered moral dilemma and engaging writing make this tough to put down!

A lightness fills her chest, as if a great breath has rushed through her.

Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)

  1. When you first read about the boat washing up on Janus Rock, did you relate to Tom or Isabel? How about after the family has gone ashore? Did your “alliance” shift?
  2. What was the biggest plot twist in your mind?
  3. I have a conflicting thoughts on the “grandparents” in this book. What are your opinions of Bill and Violet Graysmark and Septimus Potts?
  4. There is a theme of “loss” throughout the book. Which character has lost the most and how?
  5. Sergeant Knuckey plays a pretty important role in the final chapters of the book. Think back on his involvement and how it impacts the plot.
  6. Describe the outcome you wanted to see at the end of this book. Were you satisfied with Stedman’s version?

All told, this is a heart wrenching story that my brain will wrestle with for some time to come.

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1 comment

Kathleen February 2, 2017 - 7:06 am

This has been on my TBR for a couple of years! But, I’m not sure I’m up for a tear-jerker right now. Thanks for the tips!!


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