Tag Archives: M.L. Stedman

‘The Light Between Oceans’ Movie Review

22 Jun

Movie Poster via The Movie DB

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a long time since I read The Light Between Oceans. It was about two and a half years ago that my book club read it and I fell in love with the title. I’ve already written a book review and a book club reflection on the title which have become top pages on this blog. Now that my class is winding down, I wanted to start watching come movies I’ve missed and this was at the top of the list. I don’t remember too much of the book, but here’s my best shot at remembering it!

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Janus. I imagined the island as very small when reading the book. It could have been in reality but seeing it as a larger island really helped me. The house and infrastructure on the island were a lot more developed than I’d thought of, too. It’s crazy to believe that the house and stairs were built by, probably, one man a few lightkeepers before Tom. Today, it would take a whole team to do that!

Isabel. Alicia Vikander did an amazing job with this character. It was easy to see how she was able to manipulate Tom into keeping baby Lucy. Part of it wasn’t manipulation, just her pure joy at having a baby around when she’d lost one. Tom loved his wife dearly and was able to make her happy. Happier than tuning a piano could ever make her.

 

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Simplifying Tom’s past. I didn’t remember how complicated his home life had been until I read through my earlier posts on the book. This was completely glossed over in the book, removing any mention of siblings and saying only that his father was abusive and unloving. I think this was more than enough. Tom’s quiet and desire to be alone was explained by his time in the war and for me, that was more than enough.

 

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

 

Forgiving Bluey. I forgot about this until I reread my review, too. There’s a lot of stress on forgiveness. Frank is big on forgiveness and Hannah tries to be forgiving to act how she knows her late husband would want her to. She forgives the Sherbournes for not telling her sooner. There were a lot of parallels between Frank and Tom, one of which was Tom’s ability to forgive Bluey for turning him in. I would have liked to see this and I wonder if it was a deleted scene.

Things That Changed Too Much

Less time spent with Hannah. Maybe I remember this wrong but I recall a large part of the book taking place back on the mainland with the legal battle going on and Lucy-Grace shunning Hannah. I thought this time was compressed too much in the movie because there was a lot of change going on in the characters during this part.

 

I only wish I’d seen this sooner. It was a really good watch. Reader, have you see The Light Between Oceans movie? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Negativity #1: Reply Letter to a Hater

13 May

I am here to report on my first blog troll. He wasn’t hiding too well under the bridge and I’m ready to shine the light on him. Well, that is, without telling you his name. Instead of giving this troll the response he expects, I’m going to post his letter here and follow that up with my reply. Please enjoy.

This email came to me last week on a day where the world seemed to be pounding negativity and discouragement into my brain. I got a rejection letter, this email, and then had a really bad writers group experience which I’ll post about later. To deal with that negativity, I’m going to write about it and try to show that negativity is only what I make of it. I”m going to try to make these positive.

Before I get started, you should know that my most popular post on this blog has been my Book Club Reflection for The Light Between Oceans which I posted in January. For reasons unknown to me, a lot of people have looked this up in search engines and I’ll get 10+ hits per day on the post (which for me is usually about 20% of my total views). This email was in reaction to that post.

Because I am a physicist, my wife thought I’d like The Light Between the Oceans. It was horrible. 
Wife went to her book club and picked up an article by you.
As for the cover, the picture is not of the type of light described in the book.  I quote the wikipedia(which you should read)
In recent times, many Fresnel lenses have been replaced by rotating aerobeacons which require less maintenance. 
That’s what you see: the cylindrical body of an aerobeacon,  not the figure of a man. 

Also, you treat the personnae of the book as real people when they and the plot is all made up.
I tolerate writers and English majors to fumble the science in their books, bu t you fumble the English language. 
For one, Janus, was a male god, not a goddess. (Learn some Latin). 
AND
English has a verb “to bear”. 
bear
bore
borne
NOT “bared”.

Short, sweet, and aimed at the heart. I’m not sure what this man (and it is a man, in case of any confusion, based on the name) hoped to accomplish with this letter. Maybe he was trying to be helpful and point out a spelling mistake? Or maybe he hoped to be a troll and discourage me. Either way, I’m not concerned. If I were to reply to him, here’s the letter I would send.

 

Dear Sir,

Thank you for sending me a letter on my blog, Taking on a World of Words. I’m sorry that you did not enjoy the book The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.  I found it to be a very thought-provoking and an enjoyable read and it seems your wife enjoyed it as well. I’m glad she could find a book she enjoyed.

I want to again thank you for letting me know that my post is being distributed at book club meetings. This is probably the most flattering news I’ve yet to receive about my blog. I’m glad that the conversation I had with the ladies and gentlemen of my book group can help inspire discussion in other groups. I’m very touched and so glad to hear this.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

To your point on the cover, I’m still of the opinion that there is a man in the lighthouse. I looked this up on the internet and was unable to find anything conclusive so this is only my opinion. I see what appears to me to be an arm on the right side of the image and it appears that the figure has a hand on its hip because there’s a gap of light coming through the middle. That’s part of the reason I argue that it’s a person and not a lens. I looked up the page you referenced and I don’t think the image looks a lot like the aerobeacon, which is much more cylindrical. If it is lighthouse equipment at all, I think it’s more likely to be the Fresnel lens as this and the cover image share (in my opinion) a much more similar shape.

I think the main reason I treat the characters and plot as if they were real is because I’m a writer. When I write a character, he or she becomes very real to me. I sometimes wonder if I”m passing this person on the street. It’s almost like the film Stranger than FictionIf you haven’t had a chance to see this movie, I believe it’s one of Will Ferrell’s best works. Because I see my characters so vividly, it helps me to see any fictional character as clearly as if they were my neighbors. If they didn’t seem real, then the writer did a poor job of making believable characters. I think the plot could happen and that’s what’s intriguing about the novel. I referenced a real case in the post you read, the Baby Jessica Case, which happened in a town near where I live. This case speaks about who a child’s ‘real’ parents are, much in the same way the book does. If the setting seemed at all unbelievable, that would again reflect poorly on the author. However, I think Ms. Stedman did a wonderful job crafting believable characters and a conceivable plot and that it’s a tribute to her that I can speak  of them as if they were real.

Thank you for pointing out those simple mistakes that I overlooked. I appreciate your attention to detail.

I’ll close this letter the same way I close all my posts as I encourage everyone to find the writer inside themselves.

Until next time, write on.

-Sam A. Stevens

Book Club Reflection: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

6 Jan

My book club met to discuss The Light Between Oceans just before Christmas. I wrote a review of this book a few weeks ago and if you didn’t read it, you can view it here and see how much I absolutely loved it. It’s on my highly recommended shelf. I’m still thinking about it.

The author herself is a very interesting character. She was born and raised in Western Australia, where the book takes place. She’s a lawyer in London now. From the few interviews she’s given, Stedman comes off as a very private person, not wanting to talk about herself in interviews and preferring to stick to the plot of her books. We found it interesting that the only lawyer in the book, the man who represents Tom, was portrayed very favorably in the book.

I think the characters are a good place to start the analysis. Tom was a very difficult character for me to understand. When he’s young, he felt responsible for his parents split, but he doesn’t understand what he did. He’s connected telling his father about the car in front of the house with his parents splitting up, but he doesn’t know that the car implies another man and his mother’s infidelity. From the description I’m not sure if his rift with his brother and father stems from him feeling guilty all his life and being submissive because of it, or his father was blaming him for the split and the brother emulating his father. Either way is a sad story. Someone argued that Tom didn’t really know how to be a parent because of how hands-off his parents were and that he kept himself at arm’s length from Lucy because of the guilt he felt toward her so that losing her didn’t hurt him as much as it would hurt Isabel.

We frequently came back to Tom sending Hannah notes during our discussion. We all agreed that it was a huge mistake of his to give the rattle away and we thought that his motivations were completely selfish and self-serving. To him, it was a form of repentance and confession, but he was putting his family in danger and dragging Hannah along for the ride. We couldn’t figure out how he thought he was helping Hannah by doing this. We agreed that if he felt so guilty as to leave a note, he should have given Lucy back at the christening. At that time, Hannah had just started to move on, finally moving out of her father’s house, and received the crippling news that her baby was still alive. None of this is helpful for a widow. She had finally given up hope and is more or less told to keep looking. When Tom’s gift is bigger the second time, we suspected his guilt was catching up with him and growing in a similar way and one of our members suggests that he might have turned himself in the next time in an even bigger jump toward absolution.

Tom’s character paralleled Frank, Hannah’s late husband, in one big way; his propensity to forgive. Frank forgave the town that looked down on him and prosecuted him because they believed him to be German. He forgave them their ignorance and hatred and stayed. In a similar way, Tom was able to forgive Bluey for turning him in and dissolving the family they had created. Hannah wants to emulate Frank (and Tom) and forgive Gwen when she takes Lucy-Grace to see Isabel. I believe Hannah saw this similarity and also saw both men as protectors. Frank had protected Isabel from the mob the night he died and Tom had protected her on the ship. I like that these characters were drawn in parallel because it just made the accusation that Tom had killed Frank even more ridiculous to the reader.

When Hannah decides to forgive Tom and Isabel, she uses a quote that Frank had said many times, “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” With this mentality, Hannah was also able to say goodbye to the Grace she had had as an infant and welcome the Lucy-Grace child she then had.

One of our members felt that the author manipulated Hannah. By the time she got the first note from Tom, she could have been re-married or had met another guy, but she had just gotten over the love of her life. Isabel might have been more apt to give Lucy back, but had just found out she went through menopause early and was unwilling to give up the only child she’d ever have. A lot of bad timing combined to give Hannah the short end of the stick throughout the entire book.

Isabel was by far the most interesting character to me. I sympathized with her for wanting to keep Lucy, but at the same time I didn’t understand how she could let the child go. I think I said it when I wrote my book review, but one of the great things about this plot line is that there is no right or wrong, everyone loses in some way. Someone drew a parallel between the scene where Isabel labels the map of Janus with names for different landmarks and keeping Lucy. Both were ways to stake a claim over something that was borrowed. Isabel could find a way to make something hers even if it wasn’t. She could be very manipulative at times. She manipulated Tom into keeping Lucy-Grace against his best judgment. If Tom hadn’t believed that the mother was dead, and there was very little evidence to support this, he never would have kept the child. Isabel had also convinced him that orphanages were terrible places and that keeping the child was more humane than letting her rot in an orphanage for years until someone adopted her. Perhaps the most defining manipulation of the book was when Isabel pushed for their marriage. It was against Tom’s best thinking at the time because he didn’t think the island was a good place for a family, but Isabel was still able to talk him into it.

I found it interesting how Isabel dealt with Tom being in jail. At first, she wanted him to rot there for what he did to her. I think she started to feel that she had some fault in the process as well. She came to realize that Tom was taking the blame for both of them and that what they had done really was wrong and Tom had known it. Some even thought she was going to kill herself before she went and talked. I think she realized she was going to lose Lucy-Grace and it was better not to lose Tom as well while she could prevent that.

Someone brought up if we thought Tom and Isabel would have gotten a divorce in modern society. Most of us decided that they wouldn’t have, for the main reason I stated above. They had both lost their child, born of them or not. Losing each other in a divorce would have ripped them both apart even faster and I don’t think they could have borne it. They had each other to share their grief and I think that’s what Isabel needed more than anything.

There is so much to say about little Lucy-Grace even when she was at such a young age. She was old enough to know her parents and to love them fiercely but she was still young enough that the doctors knew her memory of the life she had already lived would be fuzzy at best. Reader, I ask you to tell me your distinct memories before age four. Harder than you thought, isn’t it? Even so, what happened in the early years of Lucy’s life affected even her name. She still refers to herself as Lucy-Grace when she finally meets Tom.

In the early 1990s there was a custody battle between adoptive and birth parents in our area, known as the Baby Jessica case. I was young, but many of the woman in my group remember this, specifically pictures of a young girl screaming as she’s taken away from the parents who raised her and given back to her birth parents. We wondered if Stedman was inspired by a case like this one.

Only after she had her own child did Lucy-Grace realize what Isabel and Tom had done for her and how hard it would have been to give up the child they had raised. There were a lot of parallels between Lucy-Grace and her parents in the last pages. Like Tom had gone to see his mother and missed her death by days, Lucy-Grace came to see them very shortly after Isabel’s death. Like Tom had gotten a letter from his father just after his death, Lucy-Grace had the letter from Isabel when she came to visit. Like Tom, Lucy-Grace joined the military, probably without knowing her adoptive father had been a military man. One of our members suggested it had to do with discipline.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The author chose very interesting names for Lucy and the island. Lucy means ‘light,’ appropriate for a child raised near a lighthouse. Lucy is the light between two oceans, Isabel and Hannah. We thought this was a beautiful parallel. Janus is the god of doorways who is always looking both ways, like Lucy-Grace had two lives and two women who loved her fiercely. The lighthouse is between two oceans in a very rough area, which Isabel considers going on the night Tom is taken away. It’s a great parallel of the custody battle that will ensue. The cover brought up some good questions as well. The light is off in the cover picture and since Lucy is the light, it foreshadows that Lucy will leave the island. If you look at an enlarged copy of the cover, take a look at the middle of the light. Is it a man or an unlit light? We loved that it was ambiguous. For the record, I think its Tom. Also, the row boat that Frank comes in is on the inside cover.

Stedman did a wonderful job developing her characters, even the minor ones. We felt that Septimus was a wonderful grandfather for Lucy-Grace and loved that Bluey still married the girl he was pining after even without the reward money.

Writer’s Takeaway: Stedman did wonderfully with this novel. I loved how much she made you care for each character and how she evoked so many emotions. One of our members asked me and another younger member if we thought the book didn’t mean as much to us because we’re not mothers. I think I could still relate to the feeling of loss, but this is a book that I would re-read once I am a mother because I think it would mean something different to me then.

Stedman’s descriptions were wonderful and allowed us to really see the island. I liked that they were deep descriptions but not too much that we knew too much. We also enjoyed how the book started with finding Lucy and went back to explain how the events came to pass

Wonderful read that made for a great discussion. Still a full five out of five stars.

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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 Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

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’t 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.