Archive | 8:07 AM

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

9 Dec

I’m on a roll with really good book club books! I just finished our December book and I loved it. Yet another highly recommended that I think you should read.


Cover Image via

Cover Image via

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

I was excited about this book and getting back into my book club. I’d taken the month of November off from this one in order to concentrate on NaNo and read some things I’d been wanting to read for a change. It was an easy choice because their choice didn’t interest me at all and was an 800 page presidential biography. I’ll not mention it here by name. One of the women whom I normally sit by said this is one of her favorite books and I will freely admit I loved it. 80 pages per day is not normal for me.

Returning home to Australia after World War I, Tom is looking for nothing more than the peace he fought for in Europe. He takes a job as a lighthouse keeper and after a few postings is sent to Janus, an island 100 miles off the western shore that is only visited quarterly by the supply boat. The night before he is to leave for his posting, he meets Isabel and through a series of letters the two fall in love and are married. Janus is a lonely place for the two and their attempts to start a family are foiled three times by miscarriages and stillborns. When a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a baby, Isabel is sure it’s a sign from God and convinces Tom to not report the incident and that they can raise the child as their own. The perfectly happy adopted family is fine in its isolation on Janus, but when they return to shore three years later, their secrets start to haunt them.

The ending of this book had me staying up late and sneaking a few extra minutes onto my lunch to read to the end. The concept of the whole thing was so unique that it really captured my attention. The lighthouse was very well described and obviously well researched. I think Stedman did a wonderful job of describing the loneliness and isolation that the family felt on that island and how that sense of solidarity influenced their decision to keep baby Lucy. I was describing this book to a co-worker and my boss walked by and told me she loved this book, too. I think it strikes a chord.

Stedman’s book focuses on regret, the thin line between right and wrong, and motherhood. Tom is consumed by regret for what he has done to Hannah, Lucy’s biological mother, by depriving her of raising a child. Lucy is loved and well cared for by the Sherbourne’s but she is loved and missed by Hannah. Tom regrets that he never followed the procedures of reporting the dead man, Hannah’s husband, Frank, and that leads to his ultimate confession. He regrets leaving notes for Hannah and decides to take all of the blame for the crime rather than have Isabel spend a day in jail because he knows he would regret that happening.

Even at the end, it’s somewhat up in the air as to if the Sherbourne’s did the ‘wrong’ thing. They didn’t mistreat Lucy at all and in fact loved her, giving her memories that lasted the rest of her life. But they hurt her biological mother and gave the biological father an improper burial. Is that wrong? Lucy didn’t seem to think so, she loved the Sherbourne’s and even after being reunited with Hannah, wanted to see them again.

While I’m not myself a mother, I loved the points Stedman made about motherhood. While Hannah birthed Lucy-Grace, Isabel raised her. Which is more the mother? The one geologically related or the one who knows the girl’s every word? It’s a very controversal topic and I had no idea how the debate would go until the very end. That’s part of what I loved about the book.

From a historical perspective, I was excited to see that this book took place in the 1920s. It was interesting for me to see the Australian perspective of the inter-war years compared to America where prohibition was followed by deep depression. The depression didn’t make a big impact on the character’s lives. It was alluded to when Isabel’s mother mentioned a cloth shortage, but there was little else to remind the reader of what was happening in Europe and America. I really liked this historical tidbit.

Writer’s Takeaway: What I enjoyed the most about this book was that Stedman took on a topic with no right answer that no one had asked before. As writers, we can’t be afraid to take on controversal topics. Writing has changed the world before because writers weren’tĀ afraid to make waves. Stedman isn’t afraid either and I look forward to reading anything else she writes, I know it will be thought-provoking.

Highly recommended book. A full five out of five stars.

Until next time,Reader, write on.