Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Public Library
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 343
Publisher:  Scribner
First Published: July 2012
First Line: "On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small newly made driftwood cross."

Book Description from GoodReadsAfter 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

My Review:  This is one of those books that I've been hearing so many good things about but haven't gotten the chance to pick it up until just recently.  Ever since the book came out I've heard all kinds of kudos from some friends as well as the very glowing reviews on popular book sites.  Unfortunately, for me, usually a highly acclaimed book tends to mean the kiss of death for a good review from yours truly.  Sadly, this book falls into the category.

It wasn't a bad book but I can't honestly say that I have really strong feelings about this book or its characters either.  It's going to fall somewhere in the accumulation of vague memories in my bookworm brain where I'll remember little bits of the story but overall the book will soon be lost to me. 

My opinion is not in the vast majority though (nor am I alone either).  Many people were utterly captivated by the book and, from the book description, I was intrigued.  It's a very interesting premise.  What would you do, after the devastation of a few miscarriages, if you find an infant and no one will be the wiser if you took the child as your own? 

It's that premise is what grabbed my attention.  This is a case where you know someone did something wrong and yet you can totally understand, due to their circumstances, why they did what they did.  And you can't 100% fault them for it.  But when the other person involved in the situation is brought into the picture those feelings are shaken as you now see the two sides of the story and the poor, innocent child stuck in the middle.  I found myself empathizing with Isabel as well as with Hannah but my heart really went out to little Lucy who was in the middle of it all.

This book did make me think and gave me a good moral dilemma to ponder but I don't think the energy and interest of the premise was used to its full potential.  It lacked a strong pace and it had a hard time keeping my interest.  I think that something that could have helped the pace and interest in the book is if subplots were used to spice things up.  We're really on a single track with this book.  With no other smaller storylines to bring other characters into the fray more it seemed a little bleak and dull.

There were in-depth descriptions of the island which gave the island a very desolate and lonely feel to it.  I did find that Stedman went a little heavy with the descriptions of the lighthouse and all that working on one entails.  The dialogue seemed a little heavy and clunky at times too but I'll chalk that up to this being Stedman's first novel.

That's not to say that this book is devoid of emotion.  Stedman tugs at people's heart strings and gets them to question a moral dilemma but I felt that the characters, those people who the reader is supposed to get behind, were too thinly created.  I just never felt connected to any of them.  Sure, it was emotional to read about miscarriages and lost babies but I the only time I got close to feeling emotional was when I was reading about Isabel's grief and seeing how she could view this new baby as very serendipitous and 'meant to be' as well as seeing how Lucy deals with the aftermath.

This is not a 'bad book' but I did struggle to finish it or to even feel immersed in the storyline and found it to be fairly predictable so even when all the secrets are revealed it wasn't a big shocker.  What this book does have going for it is the descriptions of Australia's history and culture.  It also showcases the power of a mother's love as well as the utter heartbreak when that love is questioned.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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