On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross. a single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below. Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted. 

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 and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, 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, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. 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. M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.” 

I really did love this novel, which I received from Scribner’s as a review copy. It was indeed deeply moving, and it was pretty unforgettable too. Oddly enough, it reminded me of The Vanishing Act, even though the plots are widely different. I guess it’s the fact that both books are set on an  island, and their themes are somewhat similar. But I loved The Light Between Oceans much more than The Vanishing Act. I guess it was the writing, which was crafted much, much better. The plot of The Vanishing Act sounded much more interesting. But The Light Between Oceans ultimately was the more interesting novel, and the more compelling.

It also reminded me of another novel I loved, The Snow Child. It’s really quite similar: a couple living far from civilization has failed to have a child, and suddenly one appears. But The Light Between Oceans was much more sad, which is what it was aiming for. In the later sections, I almost felt like crying, and my heart was being pulled in so many different directions. Because you don’t know who to sympathize with. And you don’t know who to be angry at. 

The writing in this book was amazing.  M.L. Stedman sometimes shifts from writing in the past tense to writing in the present tense. And though it was a bit confusing, it really worked, just felt right. I loved the language too, and I would highly recommend this heartbreaking historical fiction. 

Read The Light Between Oceans:

  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books set in Australia
  • if you liked The Snow Child or The Vanishing Act

343 pages.

 
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!
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